Australian Culture · Australian Literature · Classic · Collection · Contemporary · Poetry

Peter Boyle

Robert Frost at Eighty

I think there are poems greater and stranger than any I have known.
I would like to find them.
They are not on the greying paper of old books
or chanted on obscure lips.
They are not in the language of mermaids
or the sharp-tongued adjectives of vanishing.
They run like torn threads along paving stones.
They are cracked as the skull of an old man.
They stir in the mirror
at fifty,
at eighty.
My ear keeps trying to hear them
but the seafront is cold.
The tide moves in.
They migrate like crows at a cricket ground.
They knock at the door when I am out.

I have done with craft.
How can I front ghosts with cleverness,
the slick glide of paradox and rhyme
that transforms prejudice
to brittle gems of seeming wisdom?

Though I bury all I own or hold close
though my skin outlives the trees
though the lines fall shattering the stone
I cannot catch them.
They have the lilting accent
of a house I saw but never entered.
They are the sounds a child hears –
the water, the afternoon, the sky.
I watch them now
trickling through the open mirror.
Sometimes, but almost never
we touch what we desire.

Peter Boyle, Coming Home from the World. (Five Islands Press, 1994)

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