Download PDF Here
Live Encounters Poetry & Writing January 2023
Farewell, poems by Peter Boyle.
The facility where they were housed was out in marshland
where tall reeds blocked all access to the lake.
In place of the drift of boats across the harbour,
the inmates were trained to stare
into the infinite gradations of nightfall.
She had been steadily losing speech
and the sensation of being always on a plane
circling the earth, incapable of landing,
gave her the only clues she had
I would soon be on a plane myself
making my way towards her
from the wrong hemisphere where spring
and summer were already used up.
All my life I have been holding my pen with five fingers
as Chinese calligraphers do, not knowing
I was training to pay homage to her
in a scroll that would welcome large
impulsive brushstrokes tempered by
the serenity she dwelt inside
even as her world had become
this daily round of gazing into faces
that had shed their names.
Her spirit had travelled ahead of her,
arriving at the foot of my bed in a hospital room
on the outskirts of Berlin, gathering all her clarity
together to speak her last words to me,
unfazed by distances or the assemblage of drip lines
and monitors that encased me. I had not
altogether made sense of her visit when,
two weeks later, the phone call from my brother came.
The Berlin night grew luminous,
chill and dense beyond the window.
A double moon haloed her passage into silence.
The dragonfly resting on the railing
flies off to its places of worship–
its secret reservoirs of insects and stillness,
cool indentations of rock where water balances,
sunlit plains of weed-tangle and yellow flowers perhaps.
In the creekbed below, frogs start up,
clinkering sound into the subtle
hieroglyphics of their being.
Today, this morning
everything impregnated with messages
I can’t read.
My life in miniature — a heavy sigh
goes out of my lungs into the hot
moist October air.
Birds that move too rapidly for naming
drop in and out of the tree cover,
fragments of their song flicker in suspended air.
To my left white jasmine flowers
break open, motionless in a world that
as I listen goes suddenly quiet
sounds dwindling into silence
like the long arches of colonnades
condemned always to head off
for the horizon
as the racket of rain
folds everything into the background
of time passing again.
Do not be afraid of the wild
slashing of the wind
against your cheeks
as you struggle uphill towards
your unlit room, frozen
with the window left
After so many years
we do not altogether
lose track of each other.
I will come to you again
when you are sleeping.
From where I am
time’s passage is an immense dark cloud
pressing on the winter sky.
© Peter Boyle
Sydney-based poet Peter Boyle is the author of ten books of poetry and eight books as a translator of poetry from Spanish. His most recent collections are Ideas of Travel (Vagabond Press, 2022) and Notes Towards the Dreambook of Endings (Vagabond Press, 2021). With MTC Cronin he is the author of two collaborative books of poetry: Who Was (Puncher and Wattmann, forthcoming) and How Does a Man Who Is Dead Reinvent His Body? The Belated Love Poems of Thean Morris Caelli (Shearsman, 2008). His books have received numerous awards including the Queensland Premier’s Award for Apocrypha in 2010 and the New South Wales Premier’s Award for Coming Home From the World in 1995, for Ghostspeaking in 2017 and for Enfolded in the Wings of a Great Darkness in 2020. As a translator his books include Anima, Indole/Of Such A Nature and Carece de causa/No Known Cause by Cuban poet José Kozer, The Trees: Selected Poems of Eugenio Montejo and Three Poets: Olga Orozco, Marosa Di Giorgio and Jorge Palma.