The Houses of the Night

In this island are certain glow wormes that shine in the night,
as doe ours…but give a greater light, so much that when the men
of the Iland goe any journeys in the night, they beare some of these
wormes made fast about their feet and head…By the light of these
also, the women worke in their houses in the night.
…………..-Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478 -1557 )

In the houses of the night there are children who sleep, disfigured
by twilight, whose bodies mimic the dark margin of the landscape,
whose shadows terrify the children beside them. There are some
brave enough to face the wall, who laugh in their dreams, who ride
in boats small as leaves in a tub. Smaller.

There are men who take baths while smoking, while watching
the door, while talking to women. There are some who bathe
in total darkness, who walk wet to their beds, who stare
like horses, their eyes rimless, dark as tree water. They do not
dream. They would not survive it.

In the houses of the night there are dogs who speak like men,
there are birds who sing songs with words to them, garden
after garden of moths who mourn each closed flower, who die
of grief. There are spiders who make wreaths to catch them.
There are worms that call us into the ground like neon signs.

There are roads that remember canals, roads where the tar never
hardened & the blacktop gives like muscle, where the street lamps
tremble with the idling of sunken cars. The ants have gone mad
in their palaces. There are roads flooded with the ebon wings
of drone kings, roads that blow themselves out.

In the houses of the night there are women who whisper in closets,
who argue with mirrors, who talk easily to men in bathtubs.
There are some who bathe standing at a sink, who do it again,
who wash their bodies away. They do their sleeping like work.
They dream as a favor.


© Brendan Constantine, all rights reserved. This poem originally appeared in the journal Ninth Letter, 2009