Three poems by Joel M. Toledo


And before the end comes, the complete
corrosion of all things beautiful,
what calls us back to dust and the fine
delicate things under rocks, the solemn
quarters of the dead, or the believing
children who simply cannot resist
looking at the sun, curious about the circle
behind the wide glare presiding over
the world, the price of temporary blindness
that panics them and teaches us
to grow old wise to the benefits of light,
the harm of looking, trusting instead
the close and ephemeral, the feel
of objects, love; and the long view
of the old who are now straining
to look past all the nearby losses,
to the stars and their kind shapes,
now gradually being put out,
seemingly more distant, also perishable.

(from The Long Lost Startle, UP Press, 2009)


Threatening the throw,
betrayal of weight,
resistances of wind, tail,
aim. Any moment now
you will let it go—
fingers unfolded
and darting into space,
the flick of wrist, stroke,
and sallying forth now

the release. But this is not
the point. At the tip of all light
lies the consumed thing:
an eye, a swish. Slingshot arced
toward bird, into the slope
between mountains,
toward that sought level.

Such wide berth we give
to firmament, the presences
it keeps. We whistle for wind,
calling out to the missing,
and, in the dark,
that elaborate maneuver
of pointing to ignited things,
great capture or failure,
perfect human gestures
forever motioning
risk, raise, return.

(from Ruins and Reconstructions, Anvil, 2011)

Noah’s Couplets

A commitment, rain.
Not a symmetry, not

a constant. Forty-day
downpours could

extinguish all lungs.
The fire is not

in place as all drift-
wood have lost

where. I am pairing
lines: A sea caught

sick, a grandeur
with no audience.

Am I too abstract,
asked the break

in which a sunray
slipped through

as though light
were a fill. When

the leaf arrived,
a couple of

striped antelopes
held two breaths

on the plank, leaped
into aspect.

(from Fault Setting, UP Press, 2016)

Joel M. Toledo holds a Masters degree in English Studies (Poetry) from the University of the Philippines Diliman, where he likewise finished two undergraduate degrees (Journalism and Creative Writing). He has authored four books of poetry – Chiaroscuro , The Long Lost Startle, Ruins and Reconstructions, and Fault Setting. Toledo was the recipient of the 2006 NCCA Literary Prize and has won awards for his poetry in English, including two Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, The Philippines Free Press Literary Award, The Meritage Press Poetry Prize in San Francisco, USA, and was the first Asian to win the Bridport Prize for Poetry in Dorset, United Kingdom. He was the last Literary Editor of the now-defunct Philippines Free Press magazine. A recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation Creative Arts Residency at the Bellagio Center in Italy, he was the Philippine delegate to the 2011 International Writers Program at the University of Iowa, USA. He is currently working on his fifth collection of poems. Toledo teaches Literature at Miriam College.