The Pharaoh’s People and the Locusts

We had our land covered by the locusts.
On every leaf the hungry, magnet mouths
drew the food in until we had to shout
our harvest is gone, poisoned by the kiss
that feeds the hunger of insects that are cursed
to follow fate. Our Pharaoh thought to dismiss
a magician’s words but he was remiss
in his duty to follow a lawful God.
He thought that the years and numbers of his state
could impose his will but it was the hate
spun by the Hebrew’s God not the rod
of one warning man he could not abate.
Being one proud man, insufficiently awed
his land would sink under a ravenous weight.


Some Lines on the Passing of a Child’s Sparrow in Imitation of Catullus

The passing of a child’s sparrow seems
an act of no consequence and yet
we adults who have wagered a bet
on power must recognize a child’s dreams.
For this first clasp of hands on the maternal
with its daily feeding and watering
commands the small, aerial life to sing
and ushers in the material
that is life. While all cynics seem to know
the whole of life by aggravated counting,
they forget that the heavy wind will blow
rendering every fortune an earthly fling.
Know that on each day a child’s hands sow
hope itself in the care of a wing.


To the Men Who Know No History

To the men who know no history
the ivory and gray-skinned statues
show only muscles and irritating hues
of color that make no modern story.

Take a field trip through the garden of stone
to see sight itself rudely oppressed
by the lines of a perfectly carved breast
that cannot move these men like a living bone.

They say the endless rendition of lost plays
is no more than the mumbling, arcane chorus
of vacant spirits that cannot speak to us.
So give us some golden-tongued speaker who says

give up the gown, murder the anachronist,
make a thud of words that static will own.
Glory in the rabid spit of one alone
who renders in a rhyme a vulgar fist.


John W.L. Toivonen’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Paterson Literary Review, and Midwest Poetry Review. His most recent book of poetry, Song After a Long Campaign, was published by Great Roots Press in 2015.

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One Response

  1. Durlabh Singh


    We have swallowed dead leaves
    In remembrance of pastured past
    Somewhere in the depths of nights
    Mourning to survive a dreaded loss.

    A hand from destiny kept beckoning
    Approaching slowly avoiding shadows
    Throwing traps on rocks for the moon
    Strengthening arms of hazy afternoon.

    We have swallowed a purple paradise
    Quenched flames to make frozen eyes
    Erected fences against sounds of fury
    All to serve just some chastened lies.

    Durlabh Singh


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