Midwinter Scenes, Pacific City, OR
My wife runs off down the beach,
a declining figure becoming a near
future worry. She runs southwards
where an arcing white whale marks
the Nestucca river fleeing into sea.
The waves cry out white manes
toppled by the charging of the high
tide breaching the lip of the beach.
A few seconds of ferocity flattened
out into a frothing line in the sand.
I stand by a fossilised spine spearing
the sand, darkened by a forgotten
forest, the storm-stripped trunk too
big to roll in the surf like other logs,
so lays a slowly rotting memorial.
Sanderlings play chase with the surf,
stabbing the just-wet sand until
new waves flurry them up the beach.
They scuttle back through fear,
robotic legs blur under white bellies.
A tired calligrapher paints drooping
lines of geese spelling northward.
White commas punctuate the space
around Cape Kiwanda’s prehistoric
painted cliff. Clouds begin to clear.
The sun promises to dismiss cynics.
Midwinter exclaims another year.
The crescendoing percussion of waves
and surf sucking back on the sand.
The relief of my wife’s returning line.
Let There Be Baked White Bread
After three failed attempts with my wife,
My father-in-law takes the mantle of teacher.
With the patience of a Biblical Father, He
teaches me to measure and mix the dough,
as precisely as a desperate prayer. The
mixture made, we must leave it overnight
to be blessed by warmth and the invisible.
The next day we inspect my first creation.
Bloated with the hot air of virgin hope,
we flour our hands and He guides me
to roll, prod, fold and form the mound.
The veined globe is ready for the fires,
so we reverentially prepare the oven
and place inside, closing with new psalms.
Thirty minutes later, there was light
and a lightly browned white bread loaf.
A sacrament of salt and olive oil to harden
the crust. Ten minutes later, the bread
was truly born and I held it aloft in mittens,
as proud as any Abraham. Knife in hand,
I’m ready to sacrifice all for my people.
The Bandon Labyrinth
We wander the heavenly golf course
following stone stained trails, searching
for the famous dunes. Appearing lost,
we were granted lifts by golfing gods.
A northwestern salamander stutters
across a damp woodland trail, a toddling
monster dazzled by its lumbering limbs.
We lose ourselves in the wood. March
beckons with mulch, winking gorse flowers,
dripping lichen and snatches of sunlight
between moistly rotting trees, collapsing
haphazardly on route to becoming soil.
We find a labyrinth modeled on Chartres.
Follow it around and around - no choices,
just patience and arriving at the centre.
that’s the meditative point only realised
when we leave.
on a trunk of petrified grey wood
near the bank of Deschutes river
is the belted kingfisher.
I watch from behind a pine tree.
The wind ruffles its accumulating crest.
It looks left and right,
scanning the shallow waters
for any hint or flick or wink.
I felt fortunate for
a few minutes of wings and pen,
so unfamiliar it felt tropical -
an Amazonian moment in Oregon.
I shuffled and shot the kingfisher
upstream on clangorous wings.
I was left bereft,
my blank page swirling.
Joy in Others
I wish I was more like my in-laws.
They delight in people’s company.
They set aside time like a forgotten
currency and spend it listening to
old friends, family, newly met people.
They listen and engulf the other,
applauding stories, rolling laughter,
making the other feel like their world.
The older they become, the more
they do this, the more I wish I could
make the other feel that vital, sacred.
But then I would have no time to think
words to express what is missing,
poems to offer in place of apologies.
Matthew James Friday is a British born writer and teacher. He has been published in numerous international journals, including, recently: Dawntreader (UK), The Dillydoun Review (USA), VerbalArt (India), and Lunch Ticket (USA). The micro-chapbooks All the Ways to Love, The Residents, Waters of Oregon and The Words Unsaid were published by the Origami Poems Project (USA). Matthew is a 2021 Pushcart Prize nominated poet.
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