seamus doyle: a note

He figured he might as well shoot the moon, inasmuch as he had on his work pants….”


by brian doyle


Here’s a story. My grandfather – not the one with the diamond stickpin in his tie and the diamond pinkie ring and the spats and the two sisters who keened the death wail during his wedding to my grandmother for which she never forgave them and never spoke a word to them for the next sixty years, can the Irish hold a grudge or what, but the other one – he asked the girl who would be his wife to marry him six times, no kidding, each time down on his right knee, ruining his good suit pants the first two times and then after that sensibly wearing his second best suit to ask for her hand, and the only reason she finally said yes, he says, is that they were in a boat, this was in the River Slaney, and the chop was high, and she was terrified, and she was ferocious seasick, so he figured he might as well shoot the moon, inasmuch as he had on his work pants, so he got down on his knee, right there in the wallowing boat, and asked her to marry him, and I may perhaps have emitted a croak that that he took as assent, she says, and they indeed married soon thereafter, on land, and seeded the future, some of whom much enjoy it when gramp says I asked for her hand and she tossed her tea, love’s like that, boys.

Originally published:
Issue Fifty-Eight
June 2010


(photo tinting: rutger o’docharty )

Brian Doyle is the author of books about otters, sea-wrack, tiny rhinoceroses, and the later and more incomprehensible work of William Blake, the part where he invented a vast and mysterious mythology of his own, and even he didn’t understand it, but by God he wasn’t going to admit that to a soul, was he, the poor moist British sot, probably driven insane by the incessant weeping of the sky, not to mention the poor personal hygiene and awful teeth of his fellow islanders, huddled in the mist and terrified of a corporal the size of a fecking fire hydrant across the way, was that guy a first draft of Hitler or what, I mean, who wants to conquer Egypt? What’s the point? Did his pecker not work or what? Isn’t that the only reason you would issue such a nonsensical statement, let’s conquer Egypt! Jesus, two shoeless frogs with asthma could conquer Egypt in an afternoon, if it was a weekday. And why would anyone in his right mind want to conquer Russia? I mean, really? Do you need more snow and ice and mud and iconography in your life? Isn’t there just about enough of that in any normal day? Am I right? It’s not like we get up in the morning and think I need to read some elephantine murk that may or may not be about murder and czarinas and etc., isn’t that so? Because if you do wake up and think that, I have a country for you to conquer. Doyle is also an essayist, which no one is exactly sure what that means, we think it may have something to do with hermeneutics, and he is the author of two collections of something that even he is loathe to call poetry. Now there’s a great word, loathe, which you can, as you know, also spell loath, one of those rare words you can spell either way whenever you want, in bed, or on the road, or in your hotel room with a pencil and a nickel and a girl with few if any inhibitions. I am loathe to go further. Let’s conquer Egypt! Also he has committed a novel. As for the part of the biographical note where the author preens and boasts of his previous blue-collar jobs, from some weird itch to prove that he is not merely an effete intellectual artiste, Doyle had some of those jobs, but he never liked them much, and over the long years since he has very often, like right now for example, considered that he is one lucky toy boy not to be digging ditches, driving a bus, logging, fishing, plumbing, carpentering, and etc. along those lines, but instead he sits around telling roaring lies for fun, and slightly true stories for a living, which the phrase living is something of a joke, isn’t it, because by god these kids are going to eat me out of house and home, and you never saw such a snarling ravenous pack of surly sneering supercilious spawn in your born days, what in god’s name we were thinking when we airily said let’s have children I do not now know, could I not have listened to my gramp’s advice and been leery of the whole process from proposal on, wary of tossing tea? But no. Also Doyle has a dog. More from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke. (bio/2010)

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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