Joel M. Toledo


For centuries, they have kept to their disguises,
resisting the elements and remaining defiant,
like the firm, granite elbows of gargoyles,
crooked and untouched, sitting high
and growing more and more permanent

to the many visitors. Still we can make out
the process, the ancient alchemy of carving
life from stone. We point to the lifelike sculptures,
gasping, as if they are still poised for flight,
for modern dominion of sky. Then again

everything here is strange, even the language
that explains most history and is in love with death.
In pace requiescat. But why are we this afraid,
and why such restlessness? And if you are fortunate,
the tour guide continues, the statues will not even stir.


We are studying it, the slow progression of ink,
struggle of hand. Sometimes we get caught
in the swirl of the stroke, small violence
on the page. The monks understand this, pushing
themselves into meditation, driven by mind.
So they talk about detachment over and over,
like the idea is singular and repetitive and true,
as the higher voices that demand no less
than stillness and explains how
tiny movements are unnecessary and invasive,
that all mistakes are acts of war.
And the students, young and unsure,
should suffer no less. The curves of each letter
must be no less quiet, insists the master,
in words more like a whisper. Ready yourselves
for symmetry, order. Even the necessary italics.

Joel M. Toledo has an M.A. degree in Creative Writing
(Poetry) at the University of the Philippines,
Diliman, He is a faculty at the Department of English
of Miriam College, Quezon City. He was the 2nd prize
winner of the 2006 Bridport Prize in the UK for his
poem, “The Same Old Figurative”.


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