A small someone
Yet again I am among children who are telling me stories,
And asking me stories, and we talk about sculpting stories,
And their common shapes, stories being like great beer for
Which you need a bottle, I say, or else there's beer all over.
This makes them laugh. Then one moppet says to me, Isn't
A poem the same as a song the same as a story set to music,
Isn't that so? Aren't all kinds of writing the same in the end,
They just come in different packages? Like we say different
Kinds of prayers but in the end all the prayers are the same?
And for a minute I stand there in front of the class, gawping.
I want to laugh and weep at the same time. I think I'm doing
So right now, writing this down. Sometimes someone, often
A small someone, says something so piercing and naked and
Honest and genuine and sideways and brilliant and stunning
That you want to laugh and weep at the same time. Sure you
Stare in her eyes and say kid, you are a wild holy genius,
Don't ever misplace your zest and quest and nerve and verve,
Don't ever tamp it down, don't let anyone else tamp or tramp
It down either, okay? Okay? Because the brains that leap and
Sizzle like yours, that's how the world just maybe doesn't die.
Poem for Daniel Joseph Harrington
This is what I saw at a funeral on Saturday a bright
Brilliant crystal spring day which the late lamented
Would most surely have called a great day for golf:
His grandson, age smallish, dandling the deceased's
Favourite club on the lawn outside the church, as all
The mourners stood around chatting. The boy tried
Every conceivable move with the club — he whirled
It like a baton, and balanced it on a finger, and fired
It like a long silvered pistol, and almost decapitated
The peonies, and batted pebbles into the parking lot,
And finally leaned insouciantly on the club, exactly
As his grandfather had so very many times before. I
Was entranced by the whole performance. It seemed
Very much to be a prayer, somehow. The intent joy,
The concentrated silly, the cheerful un-work of it all;
The late lamented, I am absolutely sure, would have
Been delighted. In fact I would bet the house that he
Would have pulled another club from his bag and set
To having a dandling contest with the boy. He would.
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.
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author of the essay collection Grace Notes.