Nostalgia Poetry

Four Poems

By Matthew James Friday

Her Prize

Our Nan Connie had inexplicable luck,

she could win a prize in any raffle. A randomly

plucked ticket always struck silver or bronze.


My mother had no such luck. We laughed

at her leaden tokens, while Nan piled up

perfumes, food baskets, ribboned condiments.


One fabled day at the seaside arcades Mum’s luck

finally cashed-in. A year’s bottled tuppences fed

into the game that tongued them over lips,


some back, most gulped down. It was the taste

of luck we slobbered over. 20p for three goes

on the hand-grabber game, the slippery claw


that always let slip. Mum’s last attempt: clunk!

The claw suddenly snaps off its arm and crashes

to the base, flailing fingers in the collection tray.


Giggling, Mum handed the limp claw to a teenage

manager, his eyes widening with wonderment.

Mum claimed her prize: a lasting family myth.

Winning Hands

Sometimes the most fun we had at Christmas

was when every tipsy adult could be coerced

into a seat at the table for card games. Nan

and Mum presented their collections of two

pences, gestated by months of quiet collecting.

Nan shuffled the cards, revealing hidden talents.

Grandad prepared his pint and promised not

to cheat, which he did, outrageously. So funny

to my brother and me, but less as we grew up

and he played less despite our begging. Back

to the card games. Pontoon was the favourite

and could last hours, bronze coins shuffling back

and forth, cards hiding under the table, a break

for cake. For a few priceless years, we prayed

for 21, always laughing – that was the best hand. 

Years on we continued to play but the table

featured fewer players as life’s random gambles

took its toll: ageing adults and evening fatigue,

sudden cruel illnesses, empty chairs. No chance

now we can ever be reunited for another game

though my childhood was dealt a winning hand.

Blue Curacao

For Glynn

‘Go on boy! Go on!’ cries the butcher

waiting nervously at the winning post,

punching the air as his greyhound,

Blue Curacao, streaks along the arterial

track. ‘Go on! For me, boy, for me.’


All week he’s up to his elbows in joints,

loins, portions, quick cuts, friendly manner;

as tender to customers as he is to meat.

The betting slip in his bony hands drips

with sweat. ‘Come on! For your old man!’


Suddenly the crowd cries. ‘Come on boy!’

The butcher’s heart thumps hard.

Here come the hounds. ‘Come on boy!’

Voice hoarse, lungs straining for air.

Here they are. Blue Curacao’s in the lead!


Like a flash of steel, the sliver of meat

and hard muscle pumps past Glyn.

‘Come on boy! For your old man! For me!’

Blue Curacao slices through the finish line.

The butcher chops the air triumphantly.


School assembly we flocked

to the fanfare of a rare treat:

Birdman. Superhero simplicity.


Perched on stage in armoured

overalls, behind a line of cages,

beaks poking out. No memory


of the actual man – a beard,

perhaps. It was all about birds

of prey: the hawk on his arm


with its hungry globes, slowly

creaking beak, tensing claws.

Volunteers called up. No way.


Most impressive were the owls.

We learned of how stories misled

us to believe in too-wit-too-woo.


We oohed at the snowy owl

as she arced her white head

all the way around childhood.


When her white wings opened

and she flew across the hall,

everyone ducked like mice, cries


of glaciated fear. Mrs Hanlon,

shaking her sensible headmistress

head, but the damage was done.


I would always love owls now.

Birdman packed up the birds,

squawking protests from us all as.


We flapped out to the playground,

waved Birdman away and became

the hawks and owls of stories. 


Matthew James Friday has had poems published in numerous international magazines and journals, including, recently: All the Sins (UK), The Blue Nib (Ireland), Acta Victoriana (Canada), and Into the Void (Canada). The mini-chapbooks All the Ways to Love, Waters of Oregon and The Words Unsaid were published by the Origami Poems Project (USA).




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