Loneliness by Nils Peterson

Bus across the fells of Mull – road, a single lane between hills
barren, brown – hardly a sheep to note our coming. Bus mostly filled with
the collared clergy, heavy-voiced, though on retreat – and some chattering
women of the church. I feel superior, particularly to one collar who again
and again stands in the lurching aisle to bring information about car rentals
and ferry prices to those not terribly wanting to hear. “I’ve got the
brochure in my bag,” he says again and again to faces dressed in
politeness. Then I see the tweed coat around his black dickie is old, and
its bottom seam unstrung and my heart eases towards him.
In the middle of nothing the bus stops, and a woman I had not
noticed rises carrying a sleeping red-haired boy over her shoulder. She
gets off. My eyes follow her down a road I had not seen, to a farm I had
not seen – a trailer and some fencing at the end of a rocky path. She does
not look back as our gears grind and we lunge forward. Years later I think
of her loneliness, and the loneliness of the small red-haired boy when he
awoke, and of the loneliness of the clergyman, and of loneliness.
BIO: Nils Peterson is Professor Emeritus at San Jose State University where he taught in the English and Humanities Departments. He has published poetry, science fiction, and articles on subjects as varying as golf and Shakespeare, has had several chapbooks and two collections of poetry as well as a memoir, Talk in the Reading Room, in 2014. All the Marvelous Stuff, Poems and Essays, will appear late in 2018. In 2009, he was chosen to be the first Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County. “Loneliness” appeared in A Walk to the Center of Things
Photo by Sarah Leamy c.2010


  1. Nils’ poem reminds me that we connect best and more fully with each other across our darkness than across our light.


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