Some nights in midwinter when the creek clogs
With ice and the spines of fir trees stiffen
Under a blank, frozen sky,
On these nights our house comes to life.
It happens when you’re half asleep:
A sudden crack, a fractured dream, you bolting
Upright—but all you can hear is the clock
Your great-grandfather found in 1860
And smuggled here from Dublin for his future bride,
A being as unknown to him then as she is now
To you, a being as distant as the strangers
Who built this house, and died in this room
Some cold, still night, like tonight,
When all that was heard were the rhythmic clicks
Of a pendulum, and something, barely audible,
Moving on the dark landing of the attic stairs.
—Matthew Brennan (Vigo County)
This poem is from The House with the Mansard Roof (The Backwaters Press, 2009) and first appeared in Passages North.
Matthew Brennan has taught at Indiana State University since 1985. He has published five books of poetry including most recently The Sea-Crossing of Saint Brendan (2008), The House with the Mansard Roof (2009), and One Life (2016). His criticism and poems have appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Commonweal, Sewanee Review, and the New York Times Book Review.
Poetry Prompt: What Happens at Night
Go somewhere familiar to you—but go at night. This could be a place that’s indoors or outdoors. What do you hear differently at night? How does what you perceive with your other senses change? Are you aware of the history of this place? If so, how does your perception of that history change when you visit at night? How is this place haunted?
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem and prompt every day in April. Indiana Poet Laureate Shari Wagner selected these poems and wrote the prompts.