We unearthed this lost emperor
of men managing an agriturismo
tucked up against the palace
of Perno, population 75, bordered
by the rich Barolo vineyards.
First met we thought him a local
worker, in his woolen hat, jogging
bottoms, pointing out a parking
place, then up a stone shattered
path to the yellow bricked walls.
Softly spoken, confidence crumbles
like the crumbled clay of the ancient
seabed, heaved up with the Alps,
weathered over millennia, moulded
into a landscape of masculinity half-
way between snow and sea. No
weather washes out his smile, not
even his inactive left arm: a winter
vine stump topped by a swollen
hand, gnarled knuckles, lumpy
stems that hints at a cruel season.
Tenderly maneuvered into action
by his patient right branch, like the
vintners in the snow speckled hills,
trimming back deadwood to guide
the whispers of new growth, while
winter’s fatalities crackle into
memorial smoke of renewal. Holy
man, always remembering water
with wine: naturale o frizzante?
He taught us all the names
of famous hilltop towns and castles,
pointed where proud Barolo sits
cuddled jealousy by Langhe arms.
He bade us to listen to the birds
in the scruffy rattini valley below.
Tranquilla, tranquilla, he told us,
holding a moment of silent grace
as proud of his Piedmont paradise
as any of the old vineyard families.
Wake to songbirds excited that snow
becomes a legend and the sky talks
bluely of Spring. Go to sleep to the
screeches of owls owning dark hills
drawn close under unveiled winks
When we left, sadness blossomed
and hung purpled in our woods.
No more guests that day. Shook
his greenwood hand. The hardwood
hand held back, just smiles for us.
Matthew James Friday has had poems published in the following UK and worldwide magazines and literary journals: A Handful of Stones, Bolts of Silk, The Brasilia Review, Cadenza, Cake Magazine, Carillon, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Hong Kong), Dreamcatcher, Earth Love, Eastlit (East Asia), Erbacce, Envoi, Finger Dance Festival, Gloom Cupboard, IS&T (Ink, Sweat & Tears), The Journal, The New Writer, Orbis, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Sonic Boom, Third Wednesday (USA), Of Nepalese Clay (Nepal), The Peacock Journal, Pens on Fire, Pulsar Poetry, Rear View Poetry, Red Ink, South Bank Poetry Magazine, The Dawntreader, We Are a Website New Literary Journal (Singapore) and Writing Magazine.