outpost

You looking at me

like I don’t understand

     the pressures

You looking at me

like I’m just another

     face in the crowd

You looking at me

like we somehow could

     be strangers

You looking at me

like I don’t know

     why you’re screaming

     so loud

You looking at me

like I don’t understand

     the measures

You looking at me

like I ain’t never

     once been proud

You looking at me

like I’m not facing

     the same dangers

You looking at me

like you forgot

     what I’m about

You looking at me

like I ain’t come up

     through the vicious

You looking at me

like you may

     still have some doubts

You looking at me

the same way

     that you look

     through all my changes

You looking at me,

                    while I’m looking out.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2008. All rights reserved.

Why Oscar lives in Omaha

No one in the state house intended this

     and Oscar had never heard of Nebraska

     before he was heading there with his father

who seemed to talk

the whole way

about how he had tried

to make Oscar understand

how awful his own childhood had been

repeating how he had left everything behind

     to come to New York

     to make money

     but just ended up being poor

and Oscar didn’t hear his father say

     how he had saved up

          just for this awful trip

to make sure

he could drop him off

before they changed the language of the law.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2008. All rights reserved.

(Inspired by the “safe haven” law in Nebraska)

fear radio

(Drive time radio continued)
 

So now this guy on the radio

is talking like he’s afraid

it’s any afternoon between 1830 and 1834

and the one eighth blood he claims

flows through his veins must

somehow be Cherokee, Chickasaw,

Choctaw, Creek, Seminole,

or related because, he’s got

five tribe fever tonight.

 

So now this guy on the radio

is talking like he’s afraid

it’s 1846 and there are gringos marching

on his rancho waving some

crazy flag with a bear and a star

and red stripe, knocking shit over

and claiming the place he just

shot Spaniards for now belongs

to them because the missions have,

“ruined and shamefully oppressed

the laboring people of California”.

 

So now this guy on the radio

is talking like he’s afraid

it’s just after May 1882 and they’re

calling him a coolie and keep

yanking on his pony tail

and claiming that his opium den

habits is partially to blame

for why he’s got to register

his name downtown even though

he worked on the train tracks

and was just out of frame

when that last spike was struck.

 

So now this guy on the radio

is talking like he’s afraid

it’s some sort of reverse déjà vu

where he wakes up back in NYC

but it’s 1906 and he’s Ota Benga

in the Bronx, and something’s

gone horribly, horribly wrong

because he can’t understand

what anyone’s saying, but he’s

knows there’s nothing he owns

but his hands and his face

and the few things he’s got on.

 

So now this guy on the radio

is talking like he’s afraid

it’s about lunchtime on February 19, 1942

and his last name has suddenly changed

to Yoshida or Tamaka or Matsuo

and he cannot remember the last

time he saw his birth certificate

or if he has any way to prove

his children were all born

looking westward on the Pacific.

 

So now this guy on the radio

is talking like he’s afraid

it’s a banging morning

in Birmingham, 1963

and he’s a little black girl

in his Sunday best, white shoes on

and ready to praise Hallelujah

in a church basement in Alabama

at just around ten twenty three.

 

So now this guy on the radio

is talking like he’s afraid he’s Homer Plessy.

 

So now this guy on the radio

is talking like he’s afraid John Brown’s out to get him.

 

So now this guy on the radio

is talking like he’s afraid his life ain’t easy.

 

So now this guy on the radio

is talking like he’s afraid 

that you’re not listening.

 

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2008. All rights reserved.

Tomorrow is overdue

Tomorrow is overdue.

 

And it is not about just one man

but about what it means to be

an American in the world.

About how the story of America

is told in this next chapter

at the dawn of this millennium

near the close of its first decade.

In the end, all men are just metaphors

and history is the story that

we that we tell about ourselves.

 

Tomorrow is overdue.

 

And it is not about Ayers

who was a young radical

at war with his country

for sending his classmates to war.

Today there are 53,000

names etched in stone

he believed he was fighting for.

 

Tomorrow is overdue.

 

Because black is connected to white

is connected to red is connected to yellow

is connected to brown is connected to

every shade of human being ever made

in the world at every time in history

from every crevice on the planet

that made a survivor that found their

way here.

 

Tomorrow is overdue.

 

And it is not about Reverend Wright

who was an old radical

still spitting out the kind of hate

he lived through as a boy, a young man

the hate he still felt as a

second-class citizen

even after he had worn

the uniform of his country –

they wouldn’t let him stop being black.

 

Tomorrow is overdue.

 

Because what makes this country great

is the way keep correcting our mistakes

and forging forth, unbalanced but self-

assured that we are a nation of principles

that guide the people, and not a mob

of guileless fools who are uncertain

of how we got here in the first place.

 

Tomorrow is overdue.

 

And it is not about Tony Rezko

who is not a radical at all

but just a typical scumbag

with lots of money and the kind

of smile and handshake, wink, nod

and pull of strings that has

sleazed its way into everything

that’s wrong with how we

have allowed money to mean

the bottom line, the American way.

 

Tomorrow is overdue.

 

Because Kenya is connected to Kansas

in America; no matter what

the corporations tell you as

they make you cower in your

stars and stripes, anger you into fighting

for the jobs they ship overseas

or pay to the poorest and

newest arrivals, who are made

to hide in the shadows.

 

Tomorrow is overdue,

but when tomorrow comes,

the rest is up to you.

 

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2008. All rights reserved.

drive time radio

The guy on the radio is
spitting into the airwaves
and I can smell his fear
as I drive home from work.

 

Who in the world are you
dying to speak to, who only

speaks Spanish,

he asks, but he’s no racist.

 

He can’t believe what’s

happening to his country

cannot stand the idea

of programs like affirmative action.

 

Unless I need my pool cleaned
or need to have my lawn properly cut
why would I need to speak Spanish

he asks, but he’s no racist.

 

I’ve listened to him tell stories

about his father in uniform

like it’s a Lamarckian trait passed on

which gives him true patriotism.

 

He talks of his preference for

tall blonde Icelandic types (typical)

and his fetish for Asians and hookers (exotic)

but he’s no racist (or misogynist for that matter).

 

He forgets that after he was done

playing yippie (he claims)

being arrested 50 times

at civil rights protests (he claims)

he went back to being white

and even changed his family name

to be a better kind of white

by dropping the vowel at the end –

like that was an option for the rest us.

 

I’ve read that he lies about being single.

I’ve heard he was “mistaken” about

the journalism degree he never received.

Lied about having won a Pulitzer prize

that doesn’t exist for online writing.

 

And now he’s spitting mad

because he fears the fascists

the communists, the socialists,

the radicals, the America hating bunch

who doesn’t get the rules he lives by

is gonna shut him down

and is gonna spread the wealth

he’s worked so hard to get.

 

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2008. All rights reserved.