A Parallel Uni-Verse
There was fog in the trees that morning.
It was the start of the February thaw.
My brother and I got ready for school.
Our parents were getting ready for work.

It was the start of the February thaw.
We'd seen northern lights the night before.
Our parents were getting ready for work.
The radio was playing in the kitchen.

We'd seen northern lights the night before.
My brother was singing the Texaco jingle.
The radio was blaring in the kitchen.
I didn't hear the telephone ring.

My brother was singing the Texaco jingle.
The door was left open where someone had gone out.
I hadn't heard the telephone ring.
Our mother turned off the radio.

The door was ajar where our father had gone out.
In the silence that followed I heard trees dripping.
Our mother had turned off the radio.
She went to shut the kitchen door.

I heard in the silence that followed trees dripping.
Across the road our grandmother had had a stroke.
Our mother's hand lifted from the door.
It was too late for our father to help.

Across the road our grandmother had had a stroke.
There was fog in the trees that morning.
It was already too late for anyone to help.
My brother and I got ready for school.


Rick Doyle lives in Bucksport, Maine. His poetry received a SpiritWord Honors Award in 2001. His plays have been read and performed at the Stonington Opera House, Penobscot Theatre and New Surry Theatre.
February Thaw 2/11/70
By Rick Doyle
You were the one they sent to see
the chaplain at Camp Roosevelt
the morning they caught you crying
in the damp and chilly chow hall
eating with a broken plastic fork
sticky-sweet, metallic French toast.

But where in the world was the home
you were sick for? You ran as soon
as you finished school, to Texas,
Louisiana, Mississippi,
to plant by hoedad loblolly and slash.
I'd see you in bars when you came home.
Three sheets to the wind and never more lost.


Rick Doyle lives in Bucksport, Maine. His poetry received a SpiritWord Honors Award in 2001. His plays have been read and performed at the Stonington Opera House, Penobscot Theatre and New Surry Theatre.
Homesickness
By Rick Doyle
Down by the road in your dream,
the sugar maple with a horse’s
hip bone jammed in the crotch --
a step, a smudged fragment of moon.

Across the road, apple
took into its galleried heart
junk from a jet that had crashed
one April on Bald Mountain.

Like signs left by newcomers
at the end of their first winter
on a wild and desolate shore:
rotting pelt, cross, feathers,
rattling shells and antlers
pointing the way inland for the
enterprising souls who follow.

But these signs say, you’re home.


Rick Doyle lives in Bucksport, Maine.
Home
By Rick Doyle
After they’d emptied the mobile home
into the trailer towed by the Rambler,
loading the back of the wagon
with whatever didn’t fit into the U-Haul --

before we began to search in the ditch
for an arrow shot into cloudless sky,
lost in the sun and then in the cattails --

when it was time to coax the mare
and colt up onto the other trailer,
hitched to the pickup loaded down
with rusty staging and dust-filmed hay bales --

then, and only then, came the moment
when the arrow grew lazy in its ascent
and it seemed that they would never go.

But what else were they going to do?
Dump all their possessions, piece by piece,
back into the place they’d learned to call home
on Duck Cove Road?
This woman, her children,
the second husband -- a man
she’d met while waiting tables
at a bar on Route One at the edge of town?
Turn back to the creditors?
To the deadbeat ex-? To the teachers,
the lawyers, the congregation,
tight-lipped, unfailingly better-than-thou?
To the ruptures, the fractures,
the fissures, the wreckage? To what
she referred to as this jerkwater town?

As if turning back to repair the past
were less unlikely than heading out
like Canada geese to a warmer place
where the water had a sulfur smell
and grapefruit grew wild in your own back yard.


Rick Doyle lives in Bucksport, Maine. His poetry received a SpiritWord Honors Award in 2001. His plays have been read and performed at the Stonington Opera House, Penobscot Theatre and New Surry Theatre.
Duck Cove Road, 1971
By Rick Doyle
horseradish to mustard
turnip to maple syrup

Dutchman’s breeches to hawkweed
a ditch full of asters to a field of daisies

head of tide to estuary
tomorrow’s eclipse to last year’s comet

a broken promise to a broken-backed threat
a heartfelt obscenity to a misleading song
a bitter truth to a brass-belled anthem

a feathered doubt to a copper certainty
a zealous uncertainty to a willful faith
a shattered faith to a chrome-plated doubt.


Rick Doyle lives in Bucksport, Maine. His poetry received a SpiritWord Honors Award in 2001. His plays have been read and performed at the Stonington Opera House, Penobscot Theatre and New Surry Theatre.
I prefer
By Rick Doyle
Summer rain what are you telling me,
incessantly falling through oak leaves
on steeple and weathervane cod,
on the shingles of pitched
and the tar of flat roofs alike?

Or what are you asking me to remember?
Your seemingly infinite raindrops,
sometimes bothered by a gust of wind,
sometimes whitened you are driven so hard
along the shore of the bruised Penobscot --

sleeve of rain trailing back into the hills
away from the river across the hayfields
into the tender new leaves of ash and beech
quieted finally in dark fragrant needles
of spruce and fir where the juncos wait.

Summer rain I am without faith
in your willingness to explain what you mean,
or will only the woman’s green voice explain,
calling this afternoon behind her house, calling
up into the woods after her wandering dogs?



Rick Doyle lives in Bucksport, Maine, and practices law in Hancock County.
Summer Rain
By Rick Doyle
Kingdoms are but ashes

We never were as many as they said.
Truth told, if twelve souls were fed

at the old man’s table at least four were guests.
Bin Lazar, Brutus, Jude, Sweet Wallace and the rest

were subsequently joined by Caius/Kent:
we were all his forlorn hope, who had spent

collectively some three hundred years
at court. When he divvied things up, the old dear

king, he was a wildcat for his retinue.
A grievous, misplaced loyalty, I can assure you.

The daughters were right on this point, at least,
though the gamey meat and herbs we’d feast

on we ourselves had scavenged on the moor.
Drunks, soldiers, antics -- on balance, poor

houseguests who should have been turned out to fend
for ourselves long before we were. In the end

it was Lear’s dedication to his old sports
that betrayed his senility, reports

to the contrary notwithstanding. Oh,
he was mad. A ruined piece of work. Those

dour autopsies of his most tragic fall --
in my retirement I’ve read them all --

drew sound conclusions in this respect;
about the love test they are incorrect.

Unworthy or not the child will be blessed,
the father will pass on what he can, test

or no test. And Cordelia? She got France
and couldn’t have said that her inheritance

whatever else it brought her wasn’t grand.
And historians still fail to understand

that kingdoms rise in ashes. They circulate
in zones so distant kings can only contemplate

their conquest: they blow, they fall, with volcanic rain
and the tears of a quondam king, who may be insane

but has learned to suffer, for all it’s worth,
in the hospital ditches of the earth.


Rick Doyle lives in Bucksport, Maine, and practices law in Hancock County.
A Knight Responds
By Rick Doyle
The weather ninety years and then some gone,
sun some squint their eyes against faded.

Of these two sisters one’s face alone,
for the last half-century, more or less,
recalls to its place on earth the other’s.

These brothers are yours. Their mischief is done,
down to the last of the iron-hooped chestnuts
lifting its blossoming branches high.

Together, still, they grin and turn
so as not to look the camera in the eye:
ten children in a light gone utterly dark.

Something about this one sets her apart.
There she sits, at your sister’s side,
as if, twelve years along, she’s already stunned

by reasoning, insofar as we are able,
on the obligations of this dark passage
bringing her to a kitchen table

and the appendectomy the doctor performs
in a frantic effort to save a life
some weeks after this picture is taken,

and resultant blood poisoning, of which she will die.


Rick Doyle lives in Bucksport, Maine, and practices law in Hancock County.
Carter Hill Schoolhouse, 1919
By Rick Doyle
Like you, dear Anton Pavlovich, I learned
to fear the secret tyranny of grocers.
They might sing beautifully in church on Sunday
but the rest of the week they are unkind and mean.
Not to mention quick with their fists.
Nor are they particular about whom they hit
so long as the target is smaller and weaker
and preferably caught off-guard.
Brutal father. Drunken brother. Matchless sister.
You were taught by a naturalism
native to your liberated era
to cultivate the habit of diagnosis
even when it came to love of family,
which you found to be a species of blindness,
and perhaps it was this that drove you out,
not, like that most famous Lear of the steppes,
to shatter your head on the gospel weather
and land on the indecent verge of death
unattended in a railway station.
No. You were driven out through taiga
to conduct a census among the damned.
Your efforts may have been fruitless -- in this,
in the schools, and in other projects --
but still there remain the examples
of your love and your stubborn decency,
more compelling now than ever
when even the mildest-mannered among us
can justify torture without stuttering.


Rick Doyle lives in Bucksport, Maine, and practices law in Hancock County.
Letter to Chekhov
By Rick Doyle