Peter Boyle: Three Poems
Learning From Your Elders | Despair | Some Mountains
Learning From Your Elders
The wharf could be a roof moored opposite the sky.
The sea goes outwards.
The wharf travels alongside, talking to it. . .
If I was cut off from everything,
where could you take me?
Africa and the Americas lie out there
but here or elsewhere is all the same.
Sound vanishes into you and light,
yet you manage to go on talking
after all these millennia?
I keep it simple.
You have looked into so many eyes:
what did you learn from them?
No more than from the pebbles
children skim over me.
Sometimes when something is dropped
you can hear it still rolling
at the edge of the world.
As if it all stops in these slender glasses
twin perfect glasses you have made, two lovejugs
that curl upwards like the eyes of old men
folded back into the silence of their making.
You think it ends with this
and so it is nothing
but the glow from all this perfection
is already a wall of light towering behind
all three of you.
The chill river is confused:
who is first, who last
and which direction to take
around or between this shining.
A fine summer rain
is tattooing survival on the parched hills
where our mothers will be buried.
The sky goes on giving the dead
reasons to speak.
The mountain beyond that pass has no name. It is too old for us to name it.
The sea has the same colour as the sky but the mountain has the same colour
as sand. Sand is not earth but a fluid shoreline that leads to the great
cities. When we are tired we buy up land on the edges of the great cities so
we can sit and watch the insomniac journey of sand. Its slow exodus across
the horizon teaches us how to prepare for sleep. When flowers open on a day
filled with sand all the water in the world will not quench their thirst.
I send words to you from so far off aiming to shape you towards the
exquisite openness of love, but over and over I collapse in the effort to
invent a life. Walking on sand has taught me I can no longer count on making
it to any shore. Your eyes as I imagine them I will go on kissing gently and
sheltering beneath. It may be that simply wishing you such tenderness will
help you wake one day calmer, more deeply held by the world’s alignment,
ready to find another and love. We cannot name sandgrains or some mountains
but perhaps they can name us.
Peter Boyle is an Australian poet living in Sydney. His three collections of
poetry Coming home from the world(1994), The Blue Cloud of Crying(1997),
and What the painter saw in our faces (2001) have received several awards
including the New South Wales Premier's Award, the South Australian Festival
award and the National Book Council Award. He has read his poetry at several
festivals including the Medellín International Poetry Festival, 1997, and
the Festival de Poésie anglo-français, Paris, 1999. His poems have been
published in slope magazine as well as Verse in the USA, Heat, Island,
Southerly, Salt, Poetry Review (UK). His translations of French and Spanish
poetry have appeared in such reviews as American Poetry Review and Jubilat.
His next book as a translator is The Trees: selected poems of Eugenio
Montejo forthcoming with Salt Publishing.