An Introduction to a New Game by Peter Boyle

As an extension of Arc’s Canada-Australia joint issue with Australia’s Cordite magazine, over the next several weeks, Arc will be publishing online selected pieces from Australian poets — this is in addition to the Australian poetry published in print in Arc 77. For the Arc-Cordite joint issue, each magazine handed the editorial responsibilities over to the other: so that Cordite filled Arc #77 (and these these webpages) with nothing but Australian poetry, prose and artwork; Arc did the same for Cordite (Arc’s part of this partnership will be published online at Cordite in December 2014). Our intent in this partnership is to showcase and cross-pollinate poetics between Australia and Canada and to share with a broader audience poetry that may be little known outside of home borders.


An Introduction to a New Game

In the lower right-hand corner of this map
is the Kingdom of Sleep.
Unlike some other board games you may know
we do not consider ourselves a preparation
for this final state.
The small brown faces with trusting eyes
you can make out if you peer carefully
into the wandering bowls of ice
are sea-deer, the bringers of good fortune.
There is no way to attract them, no way
to predict when they might give
their calm infusions of benevolence.
Look at the Admiral – he offers firm advice –
do not go near him
for the price of his order-talismans
is instant burial.
Sometimes the roar of the dead will be
all you hear:
at such times leave the board,
burn incense in each room of your house,
leave food-offerings on all windowsills
and silver coins by the front and rear doors.
Return only when you hear the first notes
of the bird that promises imminent daybreak.
Can you see four slowly-breathing fingers
that carry a pen trapped in their mouth:
should you add this to your toolbox
it may bring happiness or madness
but hardly a durable salvation.
Even now the cold night breeze
rattles the flimsy map.
The game invites.
It comes with no special recommendation.


Peter Boyle lives in Sydney, Australia, and is a poet and translator of Spanish and French poetry. His sixth collection of poetry, Towns in the Great Desert: New and Selected Poems, appeared in 2013. In 2010 his book Apocrypha (Vagabond Press, 2009) received the Queensland Premier’s Prize.

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