Poetry / December 2015 (Issue 30)

Football Not Breakfast

by Matthew James Friday

So now I understand
why my wife talks to strangers,
scooping out secret life stories
from their shells
in tiny bites of time.

In a microwave-size elevator
in an Ibis hotel in Hong Kong
a small man smiles, greets me,
asks if I am going to breakfast.
I nod, gulp and make my wife proud.
Are you? Two words to prize the shell
open. As the lift slowly counts
down, he offers pearls of his story:
an engineering intern visiting for three weeks
from Africa, today invited by friends to play
football, so no, no breakfast for him.
A minute later we part
as warmly as found friends.

But I am an amateur at this game.
I don't dig out the most easily
mined jewels: his name,
the country he is from.
I am embarrassed to just say 'Africa'.
But I have panned enough nuggets
to keep me at the riverside.
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