Sunlight, Robert Nisbet

Dale Champlin, Vivien Leigh Stacked, Collage, 2021



The ambulance had rushed through darkness,
the jerky street lights intermittent, harsh.

This room now is his boyhood bedroom.
Here, when the April sun shines in, it falls
on the film of dust on a small pile of Lego,
on cricket books, a Wisden, Grapes of Wrath,
Beginner’s Guide to the Clarinet.

Later on, downstairs, and the sunlight
illumines table tops and chairs, the oak,
the fabrics, grain and weave, the weathering.

Finally, in May, the sunfall on the garden,
bramble, bank and bush and hedge, green
in their confidence; the carnival
of the animals, blackbird-hop, cat-slink,
the daily rhythms, rivalries, the pacts.

Robert Nisbet


Review by Massimo Fantuzzi

A poem that works as a sundial, a sundial that writes as a poem.

The poet’s focus travels in synchrony with the ray of light that floods the house. Medium of his drifting in and out rooms and eras are the emanations from our sun: once here, particles of those beams appear to linger, infusing our small assets of their stellar waves. A light touch (literally) that knocks on surfaces and releases the life-beating echoes inside our quarters. Sun-kissed, the wallpaper cracks and exfoliates; objects from every corner and every past start revealing their stories and pouring out their truth: all pacts of communion and compassion between us and our sun/creator are reinstated.

Solar radiation, 499 light-seconds from the surface of the Sun to Earth, to our home, table and various paraphernalia, 499 seconds to be registered and beginning to be synthesized by our biology, 499 seconds to impact into our fatuity of keepsakes, second thoughts and unfinished businesses. What we browse, what we read and listen to, what is blossoming from this photosynthesis of the soul is ultimately our identity as it formed through seasons and interactions originated by our star. Regardless of how entangled in fear, grief, regret, hope or love, we remain the best, most interesting landing pad that this side of the Milky Way has to offer, but I deviate.

There was the sun on the wall – my childhood’s
Nursery picture. And there my gravestone
Shared my dreams, and ate and drank with me happily. (Ted Hughes, The Scream)


Review by Maura High

Fifteen lines, broken into four distinct scenes, linked into what seems like a temporal sequence (“had rushed,” “now is,” “Later on,” “Finally”), but not an obvious narrative one, like frames in an old cinematic reel. That sets the reader to inventing one! The scenes are linked, too, by lights—at first, the streetlights on a frantic journey to an ER, or to the person who needs help, and then, more and more assertively, by sunlight, and what it illumines, ending in the healing setting of the garden and its creatures. Nisbet alludes to the musical suite by Saint-Saens, The Carnival of the Animals, a sweet irony, playful, that lights up and charms this modest, half-wild garden.

Scroll to Top