September 11 shudder



Just before the first plane hit the north face of the north tower
Between the ninety-third and ninety-ninth floors, a number of
People later reported there was a flickering of power, a brown-
Out, just for an instant, as one man said — a sort of shuddering
Through the building. Probably an electric thing, but I wonder
If the tower was flinching. Busy morning, thousands of people,
Surely it was just a surge in the grid. But maybe not, maybe all
The people in the tower at the exact same moment thought did
I say that I loved her or just think to say it? Did I actually
Leave the newspaper divvied up like he likes it, with the sports
On top, or did I bring it with me? Maybe that's what happened
When the building shivered. Whatever you're sure of, don't be.
Maybe the last thing that happened before they were all melted
Is they grinned with affection and thought hey I'll make dinner.
That could be. I know it's his turn but o what the hey why not?


Army man

One morning I shambled out to the car to warm up the old bones
Before the snarling boys came with their huge bristling backpacks
To disgruntle their way to school but there in the dirt at the fringe
Of the lawn was an army man. He hadn't been there before. He'd
Been buried, I think, and the epic rains this winter disinterred him.
You know the army man I mean, the army man we all had as kids.
Why did we all have army men? With their rifles, and standing on
Their surfboards, their helmets pulled down over their staring eyes.
We mowed them down with marbles. We melted them in the oven.
We set them to attack the sea and we cheered when they drowned.
We strapped them to balloons and sent them to burn in mother sun.
We are not as civilized as we think. We still offer meat to old Mars.
We make little totems and let them fight and die for us in the lawn.
We still send our children to die and pretend to mourn as they burn.
We say that we hate wars but we do not hate wars at all in the least.
We have just created many more ways to war. Teams fight wars for
Us now, and toys, and boys, and now girls can be roasted too, isn't
That progress? It is more equitable that both genders can be burned.
We wouldn't want to exclude any genders; that would be primitive.


The varieties of tears: a study in human nature

My daughter, after her boyfriend broke up with her on the final day of high school.
The lady in the elevator at the hospital after she had to pick a wig for her daughter.
The Army major telling me about the teenage boy who was blown up on his eighth
Day in country and two guys about the same age were the ones who had to go find
The bits and make sure there were two legs and two arms and the right boy's head;
You actually had a choice of heads, where we were, he said, and he started sobbing.


The boat battalion sergeant tells a story

One time I was talking to a friend who had been in the war
In the Pacific when he was just a kid, his own phraseology;
I was nineteen, he said, fresh out of high school, I was skin
And bones and chasing girls and then suddenly there I was,
In the worst gang fight of all time. I saw terrible things, but
The first time I remember being shocked, really startled by
Something I never even imagined I would see, was a Bible
Some Marine had nailed to a rock, with a huge rusted spike.
You got the message, you know, that the Book was useless
Where we were. That really rocked me, I remember. Worse
Happened later than that, that's for sure — but that was first. 

Brian DoyleBrian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of the essay collection Grace Notes.

Topic tags: new poems, Brian Doyle, Portland magazine, September 11



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Existing comments

Beautifully written. Eleven years ago my primary school-aged son said to me as he watched the two towers disintegrate on our TV screen "Is that a movie Mum?".

Pam | 11 September 2012  

Very moving!

Jean Sietzema-Dickson | 11 September 2012  

Wow . That is powerful prose from Brian Doyle.
These four pieces say more about the futility of war than four fat volumes of fine words. But what is the alternative when your country is invaded & occupied by brutal & rapacious entities like the USA & Israel - & the European powers in their days of imperial glory ? What is the alternative : lie back , give up & lead a diminished life , or resist & fight.

DavID HICKS | 11 September 2012  

Did the USA or Israel invade bin Laden's Yemen? I don't remember that. And I am trying to follow the logic there; it's okay to roast children on airplanes if you are annoyed that your religion isn't ruling the world? Is that right? As my dad says, among bin Laden's problems was that he was a poor student of history. We Catholics tried murdering people to convert them to our way of thinking. It's a poor idea.

Brian Doyle | 12 September 2012  

While David Hicks has some strong things to say about war, I must contradict his claim that Doyle's work is prose. Those familiar with a Doyle poem know that they are big rectangles of closely ordered progressive thought. A Doyle poem is worth reading aloud to get the insistence of his argument, the changes of tone in the discussion, his astonishing array of QEDs and resolutions and over-to-yous. A Doyle poem has the appearance of prose, but only the appearance. His mode of address seems to be unique to Doyle.

CLOSE READING | 12 September 2012  

Thank you CLOSE READING for your helpful & accurate descriptions of a 'Doyle poem.' My use of the word prose was incorrect.

DAVID HICKS | 12 September 2012  

More please.

Eilish Cooke | 15 October 2012  

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