The Busker
by Robert Nisbet

The spitting rain of mid-December morning.
He settles to his pitch,
hacks and phlegms before scratching
an opening chord.

They pass by, smug families,
a few impassive singles.
He is singing McTell today,
The Streets of sixties London.

Michelle comes past, damped down for now
by another night’s abuse,
but Streets of London brings a memory
(a quick and unexpected chime,
like a knock on the lid of a buried treasure).
The school assemblies where they sang that song,
Miss Jenkin’s special class assemblies,
those coigns of mutual worth.

Passing an hour later, Richard is impressed.
He’s thirteen, has his first guitar at home,
admires this guy’s fingerwork,
has him up there with footballers.

And then the busker sings the boat songs,
Skye and Mingulay, Scottish of course, not Irish,
but Bridie (exiled after Londonderry
and the bomb attack) is caught by an echo
(maybe the catarrhal catch in the busker’s voice),
by memories of smoky ceilidhs,
the folk singers, the kitchen ranges,
the homestead, the heartland.

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