Education

By Peter Boyle b. 1951 Peter Boyle
Seven years old,
on loan to an uncle
and a bundle of cash went missing.
For three days locked in a room, beaten.
The golden orbs of pennies roasted in an oven
removed by tongs
glisten on a child’s skin
as she screams and screams.
These round white scars
that remain even today
without pigment
without the shadow of colour
with only the ash’s afterglow.

After telling that story
you burnt your hand on the iron,
burnt it yourself,
your punishment for breaking silence.

You rushed to the balcony but they pulled you back inside.
You wanted to spit, to scream insults at the soldiers
to stop them beating up the old man in the street.
“Listen,” she said as she held you back, your mother.
“Listen, you have to learn to say nothing.”
Learn to be nobody.
Learn to be the white wall
that has no face and no tongue.

Peter Boyle, "Education" text from The Blue Cloud of Crying, Hale and Ironmonger, 1997; audio from The Transformation Boat, Audio CD, River Road Press, 2008, by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 1997, 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, Sorrow & Grieving, Youth, Family & Ancestors

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

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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SUBJECT Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Youth, Family & Ancestors

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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