The monks that used to be here, some were nine ten feet tall…”


by brian doyle

Which means swift in the mouth, a language like the ocean.
A man named Tomás is speaking. He is a Connemara man.
This is the last place God made, he says. Believe me it is so.
Here it is still the Irish in our mouths. I will tell you stories.
Here any man named O Sullivan, he can cure gout and such.
Here the cows and horse and sheep have no English in them.
Here below the mountain there is an army of wild horsemen.
The man here with the red hair, the women will be after him.
The monks that used to be here, some were nine ten feet tall.
In the old days to be a storyteller you needed three hundreds
Of stories, of twelve kinds of big story, and four kinds small.
To get a story you would need to walk at the least four miles.
Once there was more horses in this land than was the people.
Once there was a man here did make a needle into an anchor.
If you live long enough in a place here your face is the place.
It used to be that to listen was the greatest art there was here.
In the old times the storytellers was all the doctors there was.
Every kind of story is in the end a story about the storyteller.
In the old time the cartwright he also made cribs and coffins.
In the old time the farriers was also all the dentist there was.
In the old time your roofs of thatch would last twenty years.
Thatching is a thirsty work, and often them men died young.
It used to be another trade was the rat charmer, a magic man.
The best bodhráns are made from goats and old greyhounds.
No one remembers that the fairies, they did love the hurling.
You could see them so at the matches, if you looked closely.
One time Cromwell the devil’s penis tied a bishop to a rock,
And let the tide drown the holy man. Cromwell he is in hell.
The best storytellers, when they died their tongues were cut,
And were saved so by their children and children’s children.
Your man Wittgenstein from Germany he lived here a while
Taming the gulls so and eating nothing but corn flake cereal.
In the old days a man who kicks a child, he would be kicked
By ten men of the town. All good religions are from the sun.
The sun and the moon and the stars, those are the holy ones.
In the old day after a storyteller told a story you would touch
The teller before you left, to have a bit of that story with you.

Originally published:
Issue Sixty-Five
January 2013


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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