Thursday, June 8, 2017

In Memoriam: Brian Doyle

A star has quietly blinked out in the heavens.

A surging river has reached the end of its tumultuous journey and transitioned into the eternity of the sea.

A voice as clear and pure as a crystal bell has rung out its last metaphor and repetition, leaving behind a resounding silence.

One of "the Good People," in the purest Irish sense of the word, has left us.

The first poem I read by Brian Doyle left me weeping and asking aloud, "Who is this man?" One of the finest writers of our time, it turns out. A man of love and life and laughter and more love and more laughter. A dreamy poet and even dreamier novelist who crafted words with the same playfulness as Yeats, the same passion as Dylan Thomas, but with a style so unique it could only have been a gift to us from the Universe.

And oh, how I will miss him. How we all will, his wife, his family, his friends, and all the thousands of us who read his work and reeled from its beauty.

I miss him already. As I write this, I'm halfway through his novel, Mink River (a novel I put off reading for too long, it turns out), and I don't want it to end, so I'm dragging my feet, reading a couple of pages a day, savoring the words, the poetry, the longing, the deep love, the impossibly long lists of flora and fauna, the archetypes, the archaic languages—Gaelic, Latin, "American"—the innocence of the children, the mystic wisdom of the non-human characters. What a book.

What a writer. What a voice. What a short life for someone so filled with it, so willing to offer it.

I am bereft. We are bereft. There are no words for this loss. Here, then, are some of Brian's:

Last Prayer 
by Brian Doyle
Dear Coherent Mercy: thanks. Best life ever. Personally I never thought a cool woman would come close to understanding me, let alone understanding me but liking me anyway, but that happened! And You and I both remember that doctor in Boston saying polite but businesslike that we would not have children but then came three children fast and furious! And no man ever had better friends, and no man ever had a happier childhood and wilder brothers and a sweeter sister, and I was that rare guy who not only loved but liked his parents and loved sitting and drinking tea and listening to them! And You let me write some books that weren't half bad, and I got to have a career that actually no kidding helped some kids wake up to their best selves, and no one ever laughed more at the ocean of hilarious things in this world, or gaped more in astonishment at the wealth of miracles everywhere every moment. I could complain a little right here about the long years of back pain and the occasional awful heartbreak, but Lord, those things were infinitesimal against the slather of gifts You gave mere me, a muddle of a man, so often selfish and small. But no man was ever more grateful for Your profligate generosity, and here at the very end, here in my last lines, I close my eyes and weep with joy that I was alive, and blessed beyond measure, and might well be headed back home to the incomprehensible Love from which I came, mewling, many years ago. But hey, listen, can I ask one last favor? If I am sent back for another life, can I meet my lovely bride again? In whatever form? Could we be hawks, or otters maybe? And can we have the same kids again if possible? And if I get one friend again, can I have my buddy Pete? He was a huge guy in this life—make him the biggest otter ever and I'll know him right away, okay? Thanks, Boss. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. See You soon. Remember—otters. Otters rule. And so: amen.

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