This poem is from the September 18, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from siliconshaman. The title is a line from a riddle in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Monster House series, which you can explore further on the Serial Poetry page.
Warning: This poem has a very creepy mood, and is heavier than usual for this series, more horror than surburban fantasy. If you're unsettled by the dark and the cold, you might want to skip it.
One winter the power went out
on the longest night of the year.
No streetlights, no heat,
no moon for the blanket of clouds
and the thickly falling snow.
It was not white outside, but black.
We hauled out the kerosene heater
and huddled around it, wrapped in quilts,
except for the radiator dragon who huddled inside it.
Even the monsters under-the-bed and in-the-closet
shivered in their fur coats.
Something was out there,
something that hid itself in the silence
between the moaning wind and the slithering snow.
Indoors, there were monsters,
but they were familiar, even family.
The little old lady ghost had been human once.
Outdoors, there was something nameless and ancient,
something older than language and the first science of fire,
which was before land or water or even stars,
a raging tameless thing of winter night
and hunger and killing cold.
The bogeyman and the lurking shadow
looked at each other over our heads.
"Yes," said the lurking shadow, "I will go out,"
as if they had come to the end of a long conversation.
He was gone for endless, frigid minutes
and when he returned, he moved stiffly,
shedding a fall of snowflakes that
lay on the floor and took a long time to melt.
"This block will be passed by," he said.
We clung to each other, feeling like cavemen,
feeling as if a sabertooth had stalked past
the mouth of our cave and moved on.
"What was that?"
The lurking shadow replied,
"That was my mother."