Reflections on Philippine Literature: Atonement by Joel M. Toledo (Poetry)


Repost from November 8, 2011

  1. The poem “Atonement” depicts an image of a common six to seven pm evening. So common it is often taken for granted, and has possibly lost its luster for adults than, say, that of the curiosity of a child’s.
  1. Questions…questions unanswerable, still’
  1. The poem’s persona experiences a normal evening, and possibly boredom left him to ponder where the sound of crickets is coming from. In the poem, Toledo starts off with no affirmation of what the subject is.
  1. 4.    Where they are exactly, no one knows.

It is enough that they lie somewhere,

 slicing the darkness with their sharp sounds.”

  1. Therefore holding the reader as hostage with a question of what the persona meant by ‘they’. The poem goes far off comparing the sound of crickets to that of cities and then shifting back to the image of the night with “the monotonous sound of crickets”. The persona continues with an uneasiness of unknowing justified by the stanza below:
  1. “by me. This is the nature of all things.

the constant search for sources,

forgiveness. Then again there is that question”


  1. What I truly enjoy about this part is the sudden shift or transition of the imagery that is seamless and skillful that one may barely notice right away. Let me show you what I mean.
  1. “of god, our natural need to be heard, saved,

As these crickets—noisy but perhaps

Full of prayer, perhaps already redeemed.”


  1. 9.    Notice ‘as these crickets’ is compared to another image being implied, a transition between the poem’s image to that of human experience. The poem also speaks of a long lost startle (as titled on Toledo’s second collection of poems) or “gulat”.
  1. 10.  When I first bought this book back in November 2009, Joel Toledo signed it with a short note: ‘for sukoshiyama* — because we sometimes need to be reminded that life is full of surprises. And little verses’. Perhaps reminding us that the answers that we need are already right in front of us.


  1. 11.  By Sukoshiyama* 

*not my real name


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