Robert Frost at Eighty

By Peter Boyle b. 1951 Peter Boyle
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, "Robert Frost at Eighty" text from Coming Home from the World, Five Islands Press, 1994; audio from The Transformation Boat, Audio CD, River Road Press, 2008: by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 1994, 2008 by Peter Boyle.

Source: The Transformation Boat (River Road Press, 2008)

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Poet Peter Boyle b. 1951

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Subjects Living, Growing Old, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Persona


A translator and teacher, Peter Boyle was born in Melbourne, Australia, and grew up in Sydney. He started writing poetry in his teens, in part, he has said in interviews, as a way to grapple with the effects of childhood polio. He earned an honours degree in English from Sydney University, a Diploma of Education, and an MA in Spanish and Latin American Studies. He is the author of the poetry collections Coming home from the . . .

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Poems by Peter Boyle

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Growing Old, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Persona

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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