Windows to grace on the school bus


The morning bus

The schoolbus croaks down our hill at just exactly the right time

Again which is constantly amazing to me — how does that driver

Persuade that bright groaning whale of a thing along so deftly so

Bouncingly saggingly cheerfully and never is he off by a minute,

Never that I remember in twenty years? Now that our kids aren't

On the bus, I watch for it even more closely, for reasons I cannot

Quite explain — the easy words would be sentiment and nostalgia

And memory and a silent sadness that their littleness is now gone

Forever, and those were swift and hilarious and tumultuous years,

Yes they were, with an incredible amount of mud and yelling and

Sandwiches and laundry and more sandwiches, my God, how can

Three children eat a thousand sandwiches a day, how can that be?

But the inchoate desire is some sort or shape or song of reverence,

I think — something about witness and celebration, and memory as

A lever for the present joy; you cannot wallow in the past, but you

Sure can use it as a staircase. Something like that. So I am present

In the kitchen window at 7.39 exactly if at all possible, to be given

The gift of a kid licking his window, or a kid waving at me, or one

Little kid this morning inarguably and thoroughly picking his nose.

You wouldn't think in the usual course of things that a boy picking

His nose would be a glorious and poignant and thrilling and joyous

Sight, something that seemed truly and deeply holy, but it sure was,

To me. All children are my children and yours and the bus bounces

Down the street every morning and we are not dead and all is grace.




One time when my twin sons were eight years old

And on their first league basketball team there was

A boy on the other team who was small but as fast

As could be although not yet in command of a ball

And his arrow of a body at the same time. This kid

Takes off at one point from a standing start and his

Launch was so sudden and forceful that both shoes

Stayed behind. He no kidding flew out of his shoes.

A few of us parents saw this and started snickering,

And then a boy on our team, a gentle and solicitous

Lad named Michael, picked up the sneakers and ran

After the speedster, who by now was sliding around

Helplessly on the buffed shining floor, and Michael

Was pursuing him around picks and screens waving

The shoes, and the ref is laughing so hard he cannot

Blow his whistle, and us parents are totally losing it,

And even the most intent boys on both teams finally

Stop and laugh, and the falcon boy giggles and steps

Back into his sneakers, and time rolls on, snickering

A little maybe, but you know what I remember most

This morning, other than the lovely fact that the bolt

Of a boy was thankfully not embarrassed? His shoes,

Sitting there astonished at so amazingly being empty.

There were seven seconds there outside the narrative,

You know what I mean? When a thing just happened

That just doesn't happen. There's some wisdom here

About what humour is and why something is amusing,

But there's also something deep about grace and gift

And attentiveness and never assuming anything at all.

Also perhaps there's something to be said about laces

Being double-knotted, or some fatherly coachly thing

Like that. But stay with me for a minute in the instant

When the shoes sat there suddenly startled and lonely.




The way I discovered I had an older brother named Seamus

Was finding a photograph of him in the dank closet upstairs

Where no one went except us little brothers hiding out from

Each other playing games. Every family has this abandoned

Closet of arcana you think you might need but you never do.

I found an album of photographs. The cover was beautifully

Burnished wood. You hardly ever see a book with a wooden

Cover. It was the colour of skin in summer. Inside was a baby

Over and over and over again; the same kid in every picture.

Who takes photographs every six minutes of the same child?

New parents do with their firstborn. I was fourteen years old.

I carried the book downstairs. My mother was in the kitchen.

Stew for dinner. The room redolent and yellow and the radio

Mumbling on its yellow shelf. All my years I will remember

How my mom didn't say a word; she stared and turned away.

She didn't burst into tears or hug me or anything; the fraught

Instants just slide past at the same speed as the other instants.

I suppose mum was not the hugging type of mom or the type

To burst into tears, either; she still is bone and grin and glare,

Someone who has seen everything but doesn't wail or blame.

A little later she told me who he was, their first baby, Sudden

Infant Death Syndrome. That means No One Knows. He was

There and then he wasn't. Soon after these photographs. You

Can understand how you would have to try to put all the pain

In a book and close the book and put it in the closet where no

One goes. You could understand that. Your father talks to his

First son every day. He went on ahead, is what dad says now.

We all talk about him now that the book opened; when we’re

All at the table I look around when someone speaks his name.

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

Sisters image by Shutterstock.

Topic tags: Brian Doyle, school bus, Seamus



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Existing comments

Ah , Brian, the Pippi I never knew was shut away in a cupboard; a three year old whose demise wrecked my mother. He was brought out by Dad, when we asked, but never when Mum was about.

Patricia Taylor | 13 October 2015  

I can SEE those sneakers now . . . sitting there astonished . . (it makes me laugh!)

glen avard | 13 October 2015  

I love your ability to catch the beauty and wonder of the moment, Brian. Thanks.

Peter Dowling | 13 October 2015  

This is the best of what you do. Such a gift, writing that eases and illuminates.

Steve D | 13 October 2015  

I rarely read poetry - I mostly just don't get it. But when I saw the author, I had to read these, and am glad I did. I will continue to read Brian Doyle, with pleasure and profit, poetry or not. Thanks!

GJW | 13 October 2015  

GJW's note made me grin. I detest 'poetry' that's only about the writer, or deliberately obscure and artsy, or consciously elusive and allusive and primly insider-talk (I never liked The Waste Land for this reason), but I love poets who are after illumination, appreciation, elevation, seeing, savoring, celebrating -- Mary Oliver, Pattiann Rogers, Szymborska, Les Murray...

Brian Doyle | 14 October 2015  

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