Matthew Brennan has published six books of poetry, most recently Snow in New York: New and Selected Poems (Lamar University Literary Press, 2021). In 2010, his collection The House with the Mansard Roof was a finalist for the Best Books of Indiana. His poems and criticism have appeared in The Galway Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, Sewanee Review, Notre Dame Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, the New York Times Book Review, Georgia Review, and elsewhere. He has won the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred, as well as the Theodore Dreiser Award for Research and Creativity. He taught for three decades at Indiana State University but now lives in Columbus, Ohio.
Lost and Found?
That crazy nun at Annunziata
Told us tales no one bought:
Fables, fibs, and superstitions
No catechism taught.
The virgin at the altar rail
Ready to receive the host
Watched it fly from priest to tongue
Like a holy ghost.
Or the wild teenage scamp,
Who, like a cow that chews its cud,
Ground her molars on the host
Until it bled Christ’s blood.
Other tales were Anthony’s.
One time, a thief returned a book
To the patron saint of all things lost.
A prayer was all it took.
The sister claimed when something’s missed
A plea directed to the friar
Will guide us to whatever’s gone
Like smoke to a hidden fire.
So every time I lose my keys,
My glasses, or my mobile phone,
I pray to Anthony, then find
Them like a dog its bone.
I’ve said these prayers for sixty years.
The nun’s long buried in the ground.
Not once has she been wrong, but can
The faith I lost be found?
Missing the Geese at Midnight
The pond across the street
Lies still as ice tonight.
The geese that swam there in the morning
Are now nowhere in sight.
Only streetlights stir the water—
As if there’s nothing at all the matter.
One night, in summer,
Gin-and-tonics in hand,
We watched the geese paddle in pairs,
Then waddle by the strand
Until they slipped beneath a willow,
Which glowing moonlight gilded yellow.
But now clouds hide the moon,
And Venus can’t be found,
While winds are blowing from the north:
Winter’s homeward bound.
Without the geese the pond looks colder,
And everything a little older.
Sitting on a Sand Dune, on the Shore of Lake Michigan
I remember still just how I felt
the time we sat on top Mount Baldy,
kissing and sipping wine and drinking in
the spirit of the evening air
while the clouds, like rained on laundry,
hung aloft where land and lake conjoined,
and to the west, the skyline of Chicago
blushed like bottles of Rosé. The sun—
a perfect circle of grapefruit red—
spread its shimmer on
buildings, ships, and the lake itself,
then sank into darkening waters
and into us, now primed for night to come.
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