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Rodrigo Toscano

Livewires & Duds

Seville woke up in New Orleans

and quickly spotted three poets

on its doorstep, sounding Northeast.


Benin rang the doorbell two times,

in came Havana flashing flesh

and three duds from Massachusetts.


A livewire from Port-au-Prince yelled

from across the rain-soaked alley

“two more duds closing in, east, west.”


Seville said, “look, I’m a livewire

I can’t just ping Ponchatoula

and make you all Bourbon Starlets!


And neither can Port-au-Prince shine

while two Connecticut duds croon

whatever they croon shocking themselves.”


Benin, backing it up, added

“soon as these clouds clear, I’m bouncin’

plus activating—four livewires” 


Havana, sprawled out on the porch

thinking of ways to radiate

without freaking a dud, or three.


Seville, stood on the balcony

and watched the rain turn to vapor

looking for livewires through the haze.


Port-au-Prince, fell in with two duds

dub-stepping to the riverbank

and tried—confabbing—a quick match.


Ponchatoula, woke up at noon

unaware of the whole circus

but hungry for the whole circus.



Chatty Cholula 

Igneous rocks

smushed together

with lime & clay.


This church sits

atop a pyramid,



You can piss

all over them

but maybe don’t.


We mean

test them

feel the layering.


Were they wood

they wouldn’t stand

repeated “tests”.


Rocks repel and

keep us bouncy

here, too.


There they are

there they’ve been

(there they’ll be)


Say something”

politics insists

“about culture”


Ok, how about

syncretism’s day

is here to say.


“Say something else!”

politics demands

“about practice”



how many layers

to your city.


One layer

can be plenty

don’t walk away


Test culture

by just sitting

and chatting.


Whittling words

peels layers

from city folks.


Smushing words

a proven way

to piss away the day.

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Rodrigo Toscano is a poet and dialogist based in New Orleans. He is the author of eleven books of poetry. His latest books are The Cut Point (Counterpath, 2023), The Charm & The Dread (Fence, 2022). His Collapsible Poetics Theater was a National Poetry Series selection. His poetry has appeared in over 20 anthologies, including Best American Poetry (2023, 2004) and Best American Experimental Poetry (BAX). His poetry has appeared in the Boston Review, Poetry Magazine, The Harvard Advocate, Yale Review, Fence, among many others. Toscano has received a New York State Fellowship in Poetry. He won the Edwin Markham 2019 prize for poetry. He was an Honorable Mention for the 2023 International Latino Literary Awards. His books are regularly taught nationwide. His poetics plays have been performed at the Disney Redcat Theater and Ontological-Hysteric Poet’s Theater Festival. His radio pieces have aired on WPIX FM, KAOS Public Radio, WNYU, and PS.1 Radio. His poetry has been translated into French, Dutch, Italian, German, Portuguese, Norwegian and Catalan. He works for the Labor Institute in conjunction the National Institute for Environmental Health Science on educational training projects that involve environmental and labor justice culture transformation.  @Toscano200

Bear Review


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