Filipino Lit poet's sanctum Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday: A poem for 2012 – Joel M. Toledo’s ‘The New Hollow’

Two more nights and 2012 is upon us. As I was sifting through Joel M. Toledo’s poetry, our Featured Poet in GatheringBooks for November and December, I was struck by this title: The New Hollow as taken from his book The Long Lost Startle. I felt that it would be a fitting contribution to Poetry Friday (which is hosted this week by Julie Larios from The Drift Record) – and as a way for us to usher in 2012 with opening doors, silences in conch shells, and the splitting of stones asking one and all to come in, come in, and perhaps, rest. Have a quiet and peaceful New Year everyone.

The New Hollow by Joel M. Toledo 


The shadows scraping the stone
as the light sears into the interior.
Or how the dips and hollows
creasing the rock’s face are slowly
vanishing.  You open the door wider
and all that is to be feared in the world
has receded, pointed things, sharp corners
rounded safe as if in the night someone
had come and chiseled out all
that may cause further bleeding
in the room.


Or maybe it’s simply because
it is a new morning
and the visitors have arrived,
the blanket stretched out and folded
neatly on the bed. Outside,
the overhead stars are diminished,
casting unimportant glimmer,
and there is no one waiting
in the old house.
I know; you are more easily
astonished by vast, joyful spaces


like when you press an ear against
a conch shell or dip your fingers into
a strange jar. That kind of thing.
So much air in there, too many whisperings
as to why you keep holding out your hand
to the sky and to the treetops in between,
leaves and the violent stirring. Yet these things
do not matter as much


as that rising sense of displacement, as if
where you are is not enough, as if there
in the very center of a split rock, you will find
a gentler heart, an almost throbbing heart,
the sun hitting it just right and you are
most welcome to listen.


Some say when you open the stone
you just get more stone. Someone else spoke
of a passing through, an emptying, a new
hollow. There are many roundish holes
in the body, insisting  on a profound generosity.
But ah, how good it is to just hold the fresh hand
and to know what once was bleeding abundantly,
for you, is now asking you to come in. 

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

14 comments on “Poetry Friday: A poem for 2012 – Joel M. Toledo’s ‘The New Hollow’

  1. Your choice of this for the new year is so beautiful, Myra. It offers such a rush of joy for freshness from the beginning “You open the door wider and all that is to be feared in the world has receded” to the end “how good it is to just hold the fresh hand”. Thank you for starting us off so well! Happy New Year to you & your family!


    • Hi Linda! This is also one of my favorite poems of Joel’s. I’m very glad that you enjoyed it. 🙂 I like the emptying of one’s self, such that a hollow is created – making space/room for more. 🙂


  2. Perfect timing! Sir Joel was my Humanities professor, but I wasn’t a very good student, haha 🙂


  3. “pointed things, sharp corners rounded safe” — We can hope, and that is a gift to be cherished.

    Best wishes, Myra, for a Happy and Peaceful Year ahead.



  4. What a beautiful poem, Myra. I love these lines:
    “I know; you are more easily/ astonished by vast, joyful spaces/ like when you press an ear against/ a conch shell or dip your fingers into/ a strange jar.”

    I hope your new year is full of those “vast, joyful spaces.”


  5. Lovely, lovely poem – I read it over and over again, and found something new (and profound) every time!


  6. A lovely choice, Myra, and I’m struck by the cover of Joel’s book and how perfect it would be as a children’s book cover, title and all. May the new year be full of the sun hitting the center of the split rock just right, and may we stop and listen.


  7. Erosion vs. smashing. You get to the heart of it either way, it’s just that the cost is different in each situation.


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