When we were Swansea undergraduates,
fraught with the onrush of the dancehalls’ scent
and loud with beer,
Mrs. Harries, landlady in our digs,
would tell us of the boys the year before.
‘Both perfect gentlemen. I never knew
they were here.’

At the first few schools I taught in
(it was a wonderful decade: the old stone buildings,
the flow of leaves and lives through autumn playgrounds)
there was always some clever bugger
who’d preceded me (usually called,
for some odd reason, Dai or Mack)
and Dai Mack, a giant of a man,
had ‘never had a child below a B at ‘O’ level’.
‘Inspirational. Inspirational, that boy.’
Likewise, ‘a hell of a boy in the staff room.
Fabulous sense of humour, old Dai.’

Helga, the German woman, Ph. D.,
who’d gone ahead of me to Brecon,
had, so the Head told me
(his little finger stabbed out in acknowledgement
below a coffee cup),
‘immaculate academic standards’.
The girls in the RE department whispered, awed,
‘She didn’t even have a television, Helga.
Just reading, reading, reading.’

Do they now sound such eulogies for me?

Robert Nisbet

If you have any comments on this poem, Robert Nisbet would be pleased to hear from you.