JOEL M. TOLEDO
Joel M. Toledo holds a masters degree in Creative Writing (Poetry)
from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. He
is a literature professor at Miriam College, also in the Philippines.
He was the winner of the recent Meritage Press Poetry Prize in San
Francisco and placed second in the 2006 UK Bridport Prize for his
poem, "The Same Old Figurative". He was co-editor of Caracoa 2006,
the official literary journal of the Philippine Literary Arts Council
(PLAC). He has two Palanca awards for Poetry and his works have
appeared in various local and international publications including
Rogue Poetry Review, The Washington Square, The Bridport Prize
Anthology, The Philippines Free Press, and The Sunday Inquirer Magazine.
I love how things attach themselves
to other things - the rocks sitting stubbornly
beneath a river, the beards of moss.
I choose a color and it connotes sadness.
But how long must the symbols remain true? Blue
is blue, not lonely. After a time, one gives up
reading the sky for shadows, even rain.
There is no promise, only a possibility.
A moment moves to another, and still it feels
the same. Like old letters in boxes.
Or how the rain, at times, falls invisibly.
Finally, the things we love demand more love,
as if we have always been capable of it. Yet
I can only offer belief, mirages that mean water,
long travels leading somewhere. I am reading
old letters, trying to make something
of what's been said. It might be raining;
some pages are unreadable.
Save as Draft
Or write as poem. The whole point is often
what we miss out on. To revise is to reconsider
the experience of, say, a leaf - never mind
that it is not green anymore. Or, pardon the sudden
evening. The transition was nice enough;
the explosive colors of dusk. And, didn't you feel
so much sadness? I cannot explain it any better
than how I could when the outlines were still there:
trees and some wonderful new shapes.
Since then, things have changed. A pale hand
moves in the darkness. And someone is calling out,
come to bed, come to bed. And it is just you.
The evening insists on evening. It is that simple.
It is late enough as it is.
These things moving in wind,
we have names for them: feather, dust,
bird. That which, now and then, urges leaves
to nudge the movable branches. Sometimes,
we may even see their quiet collisions,
flecks of sudden and minute life
as this afternoon, sitting on the porch
and watching my wife dusting off blankets,
the sunlight gathering around her lithe body,
our children running under the swayed trees
and the startled birds, the dust swirling joyously
everywhere, celebrating their release. And I am held
in awe of the things that move in the world,
or are moved, and of the privacy of the living,
all the many rising objects revealed only by refraction,
and why I just sit here, straining.
Summers we would climb trees, collecting the carcasses of cicadas.
Those were bright days, small suns flickering madly inside
the abandoned shells. And how could we have resisted them?
We were far from the city and its hard surfaces; we had so much time.
We pried the shells off gently, careful with their brittleness.
We traced the absence with exposed hands. So that the insects
still clung to the trees late October, singing, we were here,
we have gone. Yet we kept them on in the evenings,
those sharp membranes that held light. They will come alive
any moment, or soon enough. The seasons that continue to split
their bodies will let the new selves out. There is no other way:
one by one, we are called home. Now my father sits, watching trees.
He is nodding vaguely, slow now to my presence, saying something
that makes no sense. Tell me again, son, he says. Tell me again.
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