Three Poems by Rodrigo Toscano

Oranges of Seville by Paul Herman


The world of women
is ending, as is
the world of men
children’s worlds
are on the wane too
animals still thrive
though, to us, they are
quite done, as is the sky
and the oceans too
fading from view
along with the stars
long gone, the moon
was the first to go
and amazingly, the sun
went with it, gone
are grasses, to us
meadows murmur
in utter darkness
forests are forgotten
houses, neighborhoods
cities and nations
poof – gone
the arts, humanities
fond fountains of hope
flaming out, as are
‘critiques of power’
‘interstitial freedoms’
smoky afterglow, ash
music, of all things
remains, is unfazed
by this psychodrama
of absence, disappearance
and dance is – a hop away
science, what remains of it
is like the animals
unruffled, and in it
the whole bloody way

The Peopling

aubade for the crescent city

The ‘peopling’
and you gotta
love or hate
that word
of this here
cypress swamp
river bend
is a long long
and super short
very simple
of tales
adding up
to something
while subtractive
of itself
about to
multiply under
the radar
like people’s
lived lives
under this here
style of
economic and
cultural dredged
collection of
impulses and
reflexes and
imaginations and
indeed peopling
of people’s
a genuine
of tales
microns of
feelings and
half thoughts
refined and
marked up
to epic
to get lost in
to meet a few
flakes lost
along the way
showing the way
by tales
blown away
by raging
storms slammed
against walls of
ministering of
you guessed it
a non-story
of tales
blown glass
mint julep
fluted beakers
cracking up
spilling out
a micron’s
worth of
effect on
the peopling
in process
on boulevards
in alleyways
in sturdy decorative
colorful abodes
and flopping
makeshift tents
under the highway

Clouds and Us

Can’t believe clouds
are on center stage
again, bloviations
how clouds shape up
and stretch, make faces
puff up, darken
and pee softly
or raucously
friggin clouds
meaning everything
to hungry ancients of
five minutes ago
mixed chalk with oil
twirling brushes
making clouds talk
sock puppets
for dreams and hopes
of healthy clouds
as if sick ones
could even be
here’s a set of four
ok, now three
make that five
clouds, we can agree
are non-numerical
neither the Dow Jones
nor S&P 500
tracks’em trades’em
nobody squawks about
break down of
cloud families
nor about clouds
going back to school
we can all agree
no jobs for clouds
unconscious drifters
Wordsworth wrote
“I wandered lonely
as a cloud”, well
that’s closing in
on the matter
the will to flee
but not quite like
“I floundered
antsy as a
socialist geek  
putting clouds
on center stage
for future ancients
to riff off
same mists
distending to nowhere
meaning everything
from drinking
to cooking
to bathing
to bottling – ok!
guess clouds are
tracked n’ traded
somewhat like
human labor
accrues steadily
hinting that
some kind of
solidarity arises
tween clouds and us
demanding tribute
and ritual, like
the scary gods
of yore”


Rodrigo Toscano is a poet and dialogist based in New Orleans. He is the author of ten books of poetry. His latest book is The Charm & The Dread (Fence Books, 2022). His Collapsible Poetics Theater was a National Poetry Series selection. His poetry has appeared in over twenty anthologies, including Best American Poetry and Best American Experimental Poetry. Toscano has received a New York State Fellowship in Poetry and the Edwin Markham 2019 prize for poetry.

Paul Herman: My father was a painter, and I began painting as soon as I was old enough to hold a brush. When I was a little boy, my mother assisted Pietro Annigoni with the Montecatini frescoes, and I sat cross-legged on the church floor and pierced the master’s drawings with a nail to transfer them to the walls. I believe that if one is careful to get the tone right, one can take liberties with the orthodox rules for colors. An unexpected use of color surprises the viewer and introduces a liveliness into the work that can make a common subject newly interesting. I am currently working on a doctoral dissertation on Rembrandt, and as a result I am learning to paint all over again.