the stars

I wasn’t me anymore. I just was. There were no bright lights or stuff….”


by brian doyle



Friend of mine was working on his deck on the beach a year ago
When he died. It was a wicked stormy day, he says, the rain all
Sideways, you know, and I was carrying this big mother of a beam
When I had a heart attack and went down face first on the beach.
My dog freaked out and starting licking me all over and I couldn’t

Even tell him to knock it off, you know? Felt like there was a house
Sitting on my chest. I crawled down the beach to my sister’s house
And she freaked and I started fading away. I kept saying the names
Of my wife and kids, she says, like a chant. I don’t remember that.
The emergency guys come and they cut off my shirt and they shock

Me and that doesn’t work so they rush me back out into the storm
To the hospital but I was gone. I knew I had a body but I had left it
Is as close as I can come to explaining it. There were stars all around,
Stars above me and below me and all over, and there wasn’t any time.
I wasn’t sad or anything. I was happy as a clam, to tell you the truth.

I wasn’t me anymore. I just was. There were no bright lights or stuff
Like that. Just the stars. Then I got yanked back and I knew I was back
Because my chest hurt like a bitch and someone was crushing my hand.
The first thing I thought was that I would get to see Tracy again, which
Made me real happy, and the second thing was that I would never ever

Eat a tuna sandwich again in a million years, because right before I fell
Down on the beach I ate this huge tuna sub and even the smell of tuna
Gives me the willies these days, you know? This makes Tracy laugh &
I say I came back from the stars just to hear that laugh and this makes
The kids laugh and the dog barks and it all sounds mighty good to me.


Originally published:
Issue Forty-Eight
April 2007


Brian Doyle is a muddled male mule who has committed eight books rather like a series of venial sins: five collections of essays, nonfiction misadventures about hearts and wine, and a collection of “proems” that the great American poet Pattiann Rogers says darkly will ruin the word poetry for ever and ever. More from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke. (bio/2007)

Brian Doyle was the author of many books, including the sea novel The Plover, which has, no kidding, music printed in it, not to mention Mink River, Martin Marten, The Wet Engine, and more than we can recall.  He won the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished nature writing for Martin Marten, which was plenty cool and much deserved.  Brian passed away peacefully at his Lake Oswego home on May 27, 2017. 

More, much more, from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke.


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