Hitching a ride, trusting a partner, marrying the same person three times
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Brian Doyle was a novelist, essayist, poet, and the editor of Portland magazine at the University of Portland. His novels include Martin Marten and The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World. Doyle died of a brain tumor in 2017. A collection of his essays, One Long River of Song, was published by Little, Brown and Company in December.
He considers opening with the queen’s pawn, remembering his grandfather’s advice: Open with a central pawn, Elson. It does not matter which. Cease your pawns after two or at most three moves. Bring knights into action before bishops. Bishops are sly and should be held in reserve. They are not to be fully trusted.
Let’s go feed the sparrows with him. You will not be surprised to hear that he has a weird thing going with feeding the birds: a different seed every week, and he keeps track of which ones they like. He has a piece of paper pinned up on the garage near the bird feeder with his charts on it and also, God help me, a section for comments from the birds, with a little tiny pencil.
— from “On West Stark Street, in the City of Portland, in the State of Oregon,” | I tell you about your boy Jesus, / A thin man says to me one day. / Jew-boy. You people forget that. / He Jewish through and through.
Recently a man took up residence on my town’s football field, sleeping in a small tent in the northwestern corner, near the copse of cedars. He had been a terrific football player some years ago for our high school, and then had played in college, and then a couple of years in the nether reaches of the professional ranks, where a man might get paid a hundred bucks a game plus bonuses for touchdowns and sacks.
I have become a broken student of what people say / When they mean something other than what they say. / I have been dealing with some things meant pregnant.
— from “The Second Letter of Lazarus to His Sisters” | Beloveds, I don’t think we are quite communicating clearly here. / What I said was that I think there are two sides to every miracle
My name is Ramon. I am fifteen. One thing people don’t know about me is I saved one of the airplanes on September the eleven from hitting one of the towers. The south tower. No one knows this because I used my power to make everyone forget. There will be people who say I say it now to get credit for this paper due in school but that is not the reason, the reason is people should know what I can do so they don’t mess with me. People did mess with me before and that is how I develop my power. It is a strong power as you will hear now.
— from “A Pittsburgh Poem” | Imagine a man in a hat on a street early one morning in autumn. / This is my grandfather on his way to work at the brokerage firm. / He is a treasurer. He takes the bus down from the southern hills. / It is October 28, 1929.