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If we ever got to be what we so want to be



The kindergarten bus

My daughter, now a lean wry young woman, tells me

This morning that on her first day of kindergarten she

Sat in the back of the bus on the way home and all the

Other kids got off in gaggles and duos but she did not

Because she didn't recognise any familiar corners. So

She sat quietly as the bus emptied. She wasn't scared,

She says. It took a while but the driver finally noticed

One last quiet child sitting in the back; the driver then

Slowly retraced the whole route, until the right corner,

Complete with worried parents, presented itself. There

Are many ways to look at this story. You could ponder

The mature calm of the child, the frantic of the parents,

The way the child was confronted by unfamiliar angles

And unknown geometries; but this morning let's salute

The driver, who understood that the quiet child was not

Quiet inside, who took the time to slowly and carefully

Help her find where where she fit, where she was home.


If we ever got to be

What we so want to be

One time years ago when I was at the end of my rope

I was standing by the fireplace at my brother's house

Explaining haltingly why I was at the end of my rope

And I started to cry and could not stop no matter how

I tried; and I tried. It's hard for a guy to cry endlessly

And helplessly. It is. Some remote part of you shouts

Man, get it together, this is totally beyond the bounds.

But I couldn't stop. My brother and his wife sat quiet.

They didn't say anything or try to calm me down. I'll

Always be grateful for that, for some reason; for what

They didn't do. After a while my brother stood up and

Reached out and just cupped his big hand on my neck.

That's all. Seems like a small gesture, doesn't it? Tiny,

Even, the sort of slight touch we bestow without much

Thinking. But it was huge to me. I suspect touch is big

All the time, bigger than we can articulate. I believe in

Fact that touch is an articulate wordless huge language.

You know what I mean — those times when words give

Up and all you can do is touch an arm or neck or cheek

Or shoulder and something is said and heard and that's

Eloquent and ancient and haunting and the best of what

We could be if we ever got to be what we so want to be.



Poem for Father's Day

No one talks about this, but every dad who ever had a son

Had and loved this moment, during which he and his boy,

About age two, stand in the woods or at the beach, or even

In God help us the bathroom, and the father says, son, first

Rule is don't wet yourself. All production is out and about.

After that you want to try for accuracy if possible, but only

Sometimes does that matter. Just as in basketball, footwork

Is key. Never pee on your own feet. Some idiot friend will

Someday tell you that you can toughen your feet by peeing

On them. This is a canard. When you are sure you are done,

Close up shop. Never leave the door open. Think of it all as

Returning water to the generous earth; we are mostly water,

And water runs through us, and we should be grateful for it

More than we generally are, even during times like this that

Seem pedestrian. But there is no such entity as a pedestrian

Moment, only moments in which we have not looked close

Enough for the huge thing hiding behind the ostensible tiny.

Questions? No? Then, son, let's zip up and get back to base.



There are many ways to be a man,

And all of them have to do with honest

Or here's a story. A man finds himself acting as the dad

Of a kid who has no real dad. It's not anything dramatic

Or colorful, he just is generous and friendly with the kid

When she hangs around with his kids, and they feed this

Kid a lot, and he listens to her problems and gives smart

Advice in a Dad tone of voice, and eventually, when she

Is ready to marry, she asks him real shyly if he will walk

Her up the aisle. He says sure yes of course I'm honoured.

So he gets ready to do that, and digs out his one good tie,

But then the prospective husband cancels everything and

Won't answer the girl's calls and she's crushed but Time

Marches on and after a few weeks people generally walk

On. But listen to this. One day the dad travels all the way

To where the man works, and he somehow walks past all

The lines of corporate defence, and he startles the guy by

Suddenly standing there saying quietly, You have to man

Up and talk to her. You don't have to marry her. But you

Sure do have to tell her if you don't love her, or you love

Someone else. Be a man. I'll wait here if you want to call

Her right now from somewhere private. Or I can go when

You promise me you'll call her today. Are we clear here?

Then he went home. I just love that story. There are many

Ways to be a man, and all of them have to do with honest.





Brian Doyle was a celebrated author, the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and a long time contributor to Eureka Street. He died on 27 May 2017 following complications related to a cancerous brain tumour.

Topic tags: Brian Doyle, Poetry



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Existing comments

How I miss Brian's simple but deep reflections and the warm humanity he always showed in his writing. Thanks for this little treasure trove. Wonderful stuff.

Erik Hoekstra | 06 October 2023  

Brian’s work is always intimate and conversational. It has to do with honest.

Pam | 09 October 2023  

I always read Brian Doyle's articles/poems with deep pleasure - such humanity and grace expressed eloquently. RIP Brian. Lovely to enjoy again one of your small masterpieces.

Kath Holtzapffel | 13 October 2023  

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