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, Chicago, a novel.
A stack of brownies as big as bricks for my children. A small paper bowl of red and orange salmonberries. An antler from a spike buck, perhaps three years old, Perhaps a black-tailed deer, perhaps now gargantuan. Cranberry syrup made up the coast about eight miles. Handshakes of all sorts. A photograph; their one son, Just deceased; we just thought that you should have it. Blackberry jam, homemade. Honey, homemade. Salal Sprigs, elderberry sprigs. Canned smoked salmon and Tuna, caught about two miles to the west of where we Stood in the library. A baby girl hoisted up so she and I could look each other in the eye. She sneezed. Books To scrawl upon. Huckleberry leaves. A cougar’s tooth, Gleaming. A man gripped me by the shoulder and said Nothing. His was a remarkably expressive grip. People Give you things without any things in their hands. You Know what I mean. They are eloquent without needing To speak. We hardly ever talk about this. I shuffled off With my arms full. I had been slathered by the glorious And only a little of it was in the basket I tucked into my Car. People were hungry for something. I knew what it Was and it wasn’t me; but I could tell stories that could Point to what it is we are all starving for. We work and Yearn and struggle and dream for it. Occasionally when We gather together, if there is humility, if there is story, If there is honesty, then there is just enough food for all.
The kindergarten bus bounces past me this morning as I shamble out to my car and a little cheerful kid waves To me shyly and whatever it is we are way down deep Opens like a fist that’s been clenched so long it did not Think it would ever open again and for a moment I am That kid and she is my daughter and I’m waving to her Hoping she will wave to me and we think that we can’t Write that for which we do not have words but actually Sometimes you can if you go gently between the words
Hauled an old longsleeved cotton shirt out of the drawer Yesterday and once again time ground gears and shifted Back forty years and this very shirt which was then more Shirt than holes is handed to me by my lean gruff almost Always quiet tall older brother who is of course my hero And I gape at him unbelievingly and say Really, for me? And he nods and so I come into possession of his college Shirt earned playing football for a tavern or something as Quotidian as that but not for me, not at all for me—that’s The point. Whatever we think is quotidian isn’t. The pub Was called Sweeney’s. It closed long ago. I would not be Surprised if this was the last Sweeney’s shirt in existence. I’ll always have his shirt in a drawer. If I touch it, here he Is in the room with me, smiling at how a shirt can make a Kid speechless with astonished joy, even forty years later. Isn’t that amazing? We hardly ever say how amazing it is That you can freeze time and reverse it and make it caper And spin it back to anywhere anyone you used to be. Isn’t That amazing? A snatch of song, a scent, a battered collar, A ratty old pub jersey. So many time machines. Yes, time Wins. My brother withered and vanished. Yet here he sits On the edge of the bed snickering at me as the shirt hangs Way down past my knees. No religion owns resurrections.