Very many years ago I dated a roaring alcoholic Who taught me many things about many things; Much of what I learned was about me—such as, For example, that I didn’t have the guts to retire From what wasn’t even a love affiar. This is sad To write, even now, but I bet we all learn slowly In this crucial area, yes? But I learned much else That was haunting and poignant. Alcoholics, she Told me, incise a web and welter of scratches on Their car doors, just by the driver’s side keyhole; They are always poking haphazardly in the dark For where the keyhole used to be. You hear lines Like that, your heart breaks a little for the busted Parts of us all, you know? Yes, it’s a disease, yes, It’s a social ill, a terrible one, it’s haunted history, It’s hammered children, shattered families, stolen Unimaginable oceans of creativity and joy, killed Millions of people who might have been stunning Bolts of light in their own amazing ways. But this Evening, opening my car door, I think of the poor Souls thrashing in the dark, desperate for an open Door, scratching their illegible runes, scribbling a Sad new alphabet in the bright glitter of their cars.
Brian Doyle is editor of Portland magazine at the University of Portland. He is the author of Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies, A Shimmer of Something: Lean Stories of Spiritual Substance, and, most recently, Martin Marten, a novel.