Peter Boyle – At the River

Boyle LE P&W August 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Special Australian Edition August 2023

At the River, poems by Peter Boyle.

At the river

Sunday. Bright sun.
Tomorrow you’ll turn eight.
You have already entered the water
and stand waist-deep now in its blue quiet
right where, any moment, the mud underfoot
will plunge into swift cold currents.

Across the river’s wide bend
the water’s shimmer, its long curve of light, settles
exactly where you are standing, the furthest point
the late morning sun reaches.
Interweaving your fingers
you cup your hands as if you were calling
to unseen friends further out,
caught up in your own delight to feel
your breath rush through your hands
to bounce reckless off the sky.

And you wait a moment
as if your voice might come back to you
from somewhere far across your life,
rippling back from distant suburbs
and unknown cities, fields and hillsides,
from the joys, griefs and bewilderments,

as if one Sunday morning, aged seven,
you’d gone fishing
only to haul in the world
which you couldn’t know or see
but somehow sensed echoing back
like shadows into the blue
circling stillness.

Inscriptions 5

In your gaze
water would go on
quietly sleeping through summer,
sharing its coolness with every leaf
that brushed its surface.

And, despite myself, I see you again
in black diadem and red knitted shawl
shivering at midday with a chill
that does not come from the sky
but from somewhere very far
in the earth’s core.


I remember some Renaissance composer wrote
a Mass for the West Wind —
perhaps it was only the tune he had in mind
but why not dedicate a mass to the wind that comes
out of the unknown, unbounded ocean?

Sultry summer here and
the blazing quietude of mid-afternoon,
windless. The sea is far from me
though its waters lap across my memory.
No use asking for a cool breeze — Aeolus, the wind god,
has built himself a deep cave to block
the fickle imprecations of humans.

A cathedral in Venice
dips its toes in the wash of liners —
the great hands of its doors
fall open to let the nimble
quick-spirited fish enter the gold-cloaked
chambers of its body.

I too ask
that I may find my way
into that citadel, to surface with the fish
in the cool waters of a sheltered pool,
held safe at the breath’s
still centre.

© Peter Boyle

Peter Boyle is a poet and translator of poetry living and working on Dharug land. He has ten books of poetry published and eight books as a translator of poetry from Spanish and French. His most recent collections are Ideas of Travel and Notes Towards the Dreambook of Endings (Vagabond Press, 2022 and 2021). In 2020 his book Enfolded in the Wings of a Great Darkness won the New South Wales Premier’s Award for Poetry. His book Ghostspeaking also received the New South Wales Premier’s Award in 2017.

Other prize-winning books include Apocrypha (2009), The Blue Cloud of Crying (1997) and Coming Home from the World (1993). He has performed his poetry at International Poetry Festivals in Colombia, France, Venezuela, Macedonia, Canada, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Spain. His poems have been translated into Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Macedonian, Vietnamese, Korean and Russian. As a translator his books include Anima by Cuban poet José Kozer, The Trees: Selected Poems of Eugenio Montejo and Three Poets: Olga Orozco, Marosa Di Giorgio and Jorge Palma. In 2013 he was awarded the New South Wales Premier’s Award for Literary Translation. He holds a Doctorate in Creative Arts from the University of Western Sydney.

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