By Mathew James Friday
The Cherry Tree We pick cherries from a tree in Unterback*. A silent local watches us, arms on hips, but there’s no fence, just wild grass. We pluck the cherries in bloody handfuls, warning each other about staining juice, giddy with the Biblical bounty. So many clusters of fruit when you look up at the sky, red-shifting to purple stars. We only take a tiny portion of what the tree tempts. The rest if left to hang too high, rot, or be gathered by the lucky locals, if they can take their hands off their hips. *Unterback is in Switzerland The Cuckoo Stopped Singing Early July and I am stunned by the emptiness of the air. I suddenly miss his bell ringing, reminder that nature persists despite our best efforts. He started in early May, that unmistakable nursery rhyme song postering in the tree-dressed stage of our Montagnola apartment block. He sang me back to boyhood, to Epsom Common woods, where cuckoos were a distant promise of fleeting residency, the temporary in the seasons, calling a partner in crime to lay an egg patterned with our nature, displacing the righteous, leaving open mouths, always hungry. Rightly secretive these tricksters, afraid to be uncloaked, the confidence scam revealed. I caught a glimpse in late May as he bolted past, fleeing to other haunts where I hear him: the High Alps, the lips of Italian lakes, the confusions of teenage heat. He seems loudest in lazy mid- summer evenings of exposed moons, nostalgic pangs even before leaving. Later in summer, I am saddened by the need to wait until another April. Dreams of Lake Como I dream of your ripples on the lakeshore, ripples of golden waves over golden rocks. Like an Arthurian knight, I am drawn to your waters and hear the Lady chanting in Italian, grail promises of healing, cleansing siren drawing me into your turquoise depths. Fish flit at your hem, some big and unhurried. In some dreams the lake hazes with mist. Your mountains become rumours, your far shore a blur and your ballad takes me back to childhood: playing in moorland rivers and coastal rock pools. Time is upturned in your glacial heart. The waves giggle over rocks and sadness in the polished stones. In other dreams you dress in your jewels: orange and cream roofed villages piercing tiny ears of land, the isthmus hand of Bellagio dressed in lace strips, steep pearl-topped mountain crows. This is something beyond art, rounder than tabled intentions, deeper than stone worship. What do you think of me? Lucky atoms as near to nothing as can be, an organic moment of punctuation in time’s long sentences. Your eroded indifference is all the more beautiful. My prayers are answered in reflection. Long after I am gone, you will still be Lake Como, but for these dreamy moments, we drink wine from the same earthen Grail
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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