Matthew Brennan has contributed poems and criticism to Poetry Ireland Review, Notre Dame Review, Sewanee Review, New York Times Book Review, South Carolina Review, Commonweal, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere. His fifth and most recent book of poems, One Life, was published in 2016 (Lamar U. Literary Press). He is retired from the English Department at Indiana State University.


At the guest house, they hadn’t heard of Loughmore,
the parish where my grandfather’s old man
was born and baptized during the Great Hunger.

Ryans and O’Neills on every road¾
dry cleaning, diners, butchers, bakers, pubs¾
their names emblazoned everywhere, but ours

nowhere in sight. Our hostess led us back
behind the lodge and down a lane her family
owned when Cromwell wrecked the countryside.

Still standing, a stone home no bigger than
a shed that peasants had lived in from birth
to death. Burn marks blackened the bricks

that once made up a hearth. No window cracked.
But the thatch roof was rent and let in light
that filled the space, like breath inhaled.

Red Maples in Autumn

October, twilight, something’s in the air:
The maples ripen like the bottle of

Merlot you’ve poured into your globe. You savor
the dim daylight that’s left, the scent of winds

rolling southward through the trees. They hint
the season soon will change. You’ve felt this way

before, the lure of expectation pulsing
in gusts that hurry birds across the sky

and out of sight, beyond the distant woods.
The forecast’s clear: A cold, long night is coming.

But now, you taste the wine; its crimson brims
with warmth that makes the maple’s leaves hold on.