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Poem for Daniel Joseph Harrington

Brian Doyle |  23 October 2016


Selected poems


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



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Submitted comments

These are fresh and charming poems. Thank you. I was going to draw a distant comparison between the first of yours, A small someone", and W.B. Yeats's "Among School Children", but after rereading the latter, realised it's not really applicable. In any case, yours has greater appeal for this reader. It's a lovely poem.

Jena Woodhouse 25 October 2016

First time I ever outshone old Billy Butler Yeats. This reminds me of being in a museum once in Oreland, staring at his brother Jack's paintings, and an older gent next to me says quietly 'by gawd, Jack's better than Billy," which still makes me laugh.

Brian Doyle 26 October 2016

Well, perhaps I'm guilty of unintended literary heresy, and I shall always have a place in my heart for Yeats's poetry, which, among numerous other canonical works, played a formative role in my literary studies. But whereas his poem, "Among School Children" casts its gaze back to the past, yours looks to the future, and therein lies its appeal - I like its energy and brio, its optimism. Yeats's poem is one of THE great poems; and while it does seem to envisage a cycle of regeneration of beauty and promise, its mood and tone are elegiac, as befits the circumstances and subject matter. Your poem's freshness and celebration of a young girl's creative potential are what appealed to me, so thank you again!

Jena Woodhouse 28 October 2016

Enjoy your poetry, W.B.Y.s don't see it.like some of his poetry but If I have to arise once more ad go there. Heaven help me ! Loved the cheerfulness of nuns and yes Portland is lovely. I too have a Brian out there. Brian O'Donnchadha. Love to meet you sometime, Thanks for the pleasure you give.

Máire O'Donoghue 15 November 2016

Yes,Jena. And I can't help, much as I appreciate Yeats's poetry, contrasting Brian Doyle's celebratory (very much in the late Peter Steele SJ's mode) affirmation of life, even in the face of death, with Yeats's stoical and miserly epitaph: "Cast a cold eye on life . . . "

John 02 June 2017

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