Peter Boyle

Poem to be sung on the river
that encircles Kitezh

Serenely and slowly
the shore slipping by
the great heavens riding along the water
and nightbirds interrupt, break the flow
of images, of the mirrored letters
whatever is fierce
whatever is loss
the palm of the hand on the drum’s white belly
the long lute’s stem summoning gazelles
and a white-haired unicorn that grazes all day
on the pastures of forgetfulness

When the conquerors come
let the river defy their arrogance
When the merchants and arbiters of possession
unpack their dividing scales
let the river rewrite all equations
When the limiters of Eusebius
seek to measure my beauty with codes
and sell me back my own name
let the river speak for me

You do not cross this barrier with weapons
You do not buy this abundance with gold
nightbirds spreading and scattering
the amulet of light-traced
sky-shaped letters
the great heavens riding the flow of the water
the shore slipping by
serenely and slowly

(Adama the Nubian, poet in residence at Kitezh, c. 750 BC)


On arriving at the Nestorian Monastery, Gandhara

Each step is worthy of a lifetime’s study -
the hairline cracks, the play of sun and a cloud’s passage,
the way grey blends into white
and a shadowy luminosity glitters
intermittently just below the surface,
the weight of a million stones
resting under the guardianship of Heaven.

The foot studies the vertical face of the step,
estimating how it might feel, what it might cost
to master that elevation.
And at once I am transfixed inside my own shadow -
behind me, all the earth that I have known,
up ahead an infinity of steps
and at the top
the origin of light.

Seen completely and in all its
one step should be enough.
There is no need to climb the stairs.

(Marinus of Samaria)



Peter Boyle lives in Sydney. His first 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. His latest collection of poetry, Museum of Space, published in 2004 by University of Queensland Press, was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Award. A chapbook Reading Borges was published by Picaro Press in December 2007. The Apocrypha of William O’Shaunessy, fictive translations of imagined classical texts, is due out from Vagabond Press in May 2009.

Since 2001 he has also worked on collaborative poems with Australian poet M.T.C. Cronin. A first collection of these collaborative poems, How Does a Man Who Is Dead Re-invent His Body? The Belated Love Poems of Thean Morris Caelli, is forthcoming later this year from Shearsman Press (UK).

His translations from French and Spanish poetry include The Trees: selected poems of Eugenio Montejo (Salt Publishing, 2004), as well as translations of Federico García Lorca, Luis Cernuda, César Vallejo, Pierre Reverdy, René Char and Yves Bonnefoy. In 2004 he was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Award for translation.