Poetry Friday: Joel M. Toledo’s Learning to Swim

We continue with our feature of Joel M. Toledo in this week’s Poetry Friday, hosted by Robyn Hood Black. Choosing a poem from Joel M. Toledo’s poetry is a difficult task. One wonders which one is a better poem, only to realize that such a comparison cannot be made. So, I then must decide on the basis of what speaks to me more and hopefully speaks to other readers. I have a love for water, the sea, and the ocean. I find it even more wonderful when it becomes a metaphor for a whole poem.  When I first saw the title, I first thought of David Forest Wallace’s short story, Forever Overhead. I imagine the poem to talk about struggling in the water, only to discover it was more than that. The first line alone “Keeping to your sea…” told me this wasn’t really about Learning to Swim in the literal sense.

This poem is taken from Joel M. Toledo’s poetry collection, Chiaroscuro.

Learning to Swim
Keeping to your sea is like holding water,
cupping one terrible wave after another,
all troubled by a memory of depth
and of your face, glinting in sunlight, moonlight,
in every awkward moment that catches one staring.
Now I know its madness
to wade through your water
and not drown. you are everything about the sea
that pulls things down
I sit rock-heavy in the sand.
What is the color of water?
It is that of loss,
that which slips through your fingers,
the shoreline,
its final sentence.

14 Comments on Poetry Friday: Joel M. Toledo’s Learning to Swim

  1. This is one of those poems that you have to read more than once to understand. But it’s worth it.

    Thank you, Iphigene.

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    • Hi Maria,
      I have to agree. Its not a poem you’d read once. It’s meaning sort of settles in after a few reads. I’m glad you enjoyed this. I’m happy sharing some of Joel M. Toledo’s poetry.

      Like

  2. Powerful…especially as one reaches those last five lines. Thank you for sharing this!

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  3. “you are everything about the sea
    that pulls things down”

    That is powerful! Thanks for sharing it.

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  4. I love the line,
    I sit rock-heavy in the sand.
    in the middle of all the fluid lines and imagery.

    Yes, a powerful poem. Thanks for sharing, Iphigene!

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  5. This IS a deep poem, isn’t it? It seems to be talking about relationships where emotional attachment is unequal, even smothering.
    “Now I know its madness
    to wade through your water
    and not drown. you are everything about the sea
    that pulls things down”

    But how did you add the water drops to your website!!!

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  6. Thanks so much for the support of my work. I am very grateful to GatheringBooks. Chiaroscuro (2008) is my first book, by the way. The most recent one is Ruins and Reconstructions (this year). Again, my sincerest gratitude to Myra and the rest of the people behind the website. God bless! :)

    Like

    • Oh my! My bad. Thanks for pointing that out. I was generally basing it on what was available at the bookstore. Will have to correct that. I haven’t seen Ruins and Reconstruction. I would have to check that out.
      We’re very happy to share your poetry to our readers. Thanks for allowing us to do so. :)

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  7. I have all of Joel Toledo’s books. They’re what I turn to when i need a dose of the sublime in times of dire solitude and introspection. I’m not a poetry aficionado, but his poems are a gift to the world.

    Like

    • Hi Yorke,
      Thanks for dropping by this old post. I know what you mean by his poems as a gift to the world. While I’m into poetry and would write my own share of poetry, I’ve lost that passion, but was reintroduced to its beauty via Joel M. Toledo’s poetry.

      Like

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