Poetry

Ideas of travel

6

 

It wasn’t the stars that frightened them.

It was the stairs.

You could climb to the height of the sky

but there were more than a thousand steps

and each one took a year off your life –

you would soon be lost in the time

of your great-great-grandparents

and before you knew it

no one would speak your language.

You would be shovelling snow off a hillside

and hunting for turnips,

the unborn image of yourself

spitting curses and alone

in the fiery darkness.

 

Beneath the coal, light.

Beneath the mud of the road

a child’s notebook filled with the letter A

and a ballerina’s slipper.

 

 

 

9

 

The road went further down under the trees, under fences and slowly decaying houses, below high-voltage barriers and under purple fields of bracken and thistles. Entering the ocean, it continued unperturbed across sunken valleys where cattle once grazed, over the skeletons of abandoned shepherds’ huts, below the stone slabs of the drowned city.

And beneath the road of your waking breaths the road of not-seeing, not-moving, the well-paved royal road of sleep, and under sleep the road of spiralling dreams – and under that, the lone solitary road, a road with no one on it, the road where all the dreams of a lifetime, remembered, not remembered, fuse together, stretched out under the world’s inner sky. The long quiet space of the one flash of light that held you.

 

 

 

16

 

Around myself

I place a wall.

Inside the wall

explosions, puffs of smoke,

an island erupts

between sea and sea,

on one side the moon,

on the other the sun,

and in between

a jagged row of mountains

reveals an infinite anfractuosity

of tiny loopings:

a temple summons me

to hold it in my hands

with care.

 

Inside the wall

infinity the size

of an eggshell.

Outside the wall

immense darkness.

 

The planet moves

in its slowly circling

uncertainty.

Ferns tremble.

Lightning tears a hole

in the dense summer air.

Across a tilting twilight floor

I carry a bowl

that is empty. 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 19, 2020 as "Ideas of travel".

A free press is one you pay for. In the short term, the economic fallout from coronavirus has taken about a third of our revenue. We will survive this crisis, but we need the support of readers. Now is the time to subscribe.

Peter Boyle is a Sydney-based poet and translator of poetry from Spanish and French. His most recent book, Enfolded in the Wings of a Great Darkness, won the 2020 Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize. A new collection, Notes Towards the Dreambook of Endings, and a book of collaborative poetry written with M. T. C. Cronin, Who Was, are forthcoming.