para mi abuelita Olga, que en paz descanze


She’s standing in the room alone

surrounded by possessions that own

          her name,

and she’s wondering aloud

          what the rain felt like

          a hundred years ago

          and a thousand loves away.


When it takes her by surprise;

          a memory of being young

          and drowning in the laughter

          of a game.


And it’s impeccable, this moment

how her imperfections carry her away.

          She’s lost her troubles,

                    become unburdened,

          forgets the days her tears

                    used to salt her grace.


Looking straight ahead

          she laments

                    “I don’t know what’s

                    worth remembering anymore.

          I don’t know why I stored

any of these thoughts.


          What are they good for?

                    What could I have done –

                              to make things different?

                    to be the hero?

          to take possession of my dreams?


What should I have known

          to have an answer

          for loneliness and sorrow

          to cast away tomorrow knowing

          yesterday should be enough –


                    it should fill me up and let me be complete.”


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.

Yard work

 Half an hour now

I have been promising

to join my sons in

building a fort in the corner

of the yard.


This is Gabriel’s last summer

before he turns ten

and the fort is mostly

his idea, and he is

the most committed.


Alex, half his brother’s age,

is the “go-fer”

and when he has

no clear command

directs his attention

to fighting everything

he imagines is approaching

our retreat.


I gather arm length branches

and stack them to the side

to save my plastic rake from breaking.

I curse the ice storms

that crushed my plastic shed

by crashing icy pine hammers

down upon everything.

I want to pick through the debris

but I have mounds of leaves and

grass left from yesterday’s work

to cart away.

I pile it all on my

plastic blue tarp spread open

on my lawn.


My boys arrive to call again

           to join their game.

I show them the mighty dragon

I have slain.

All that’s left of it

are brittle twigs that once

were bones, and crunchy faded

leaves that covered

the beast, I explain.

I show them the orangy

pine needles that used to be

the dragon’s mane,

and pull out pine cones

as evidence of the deadly

teeth that threatened us all.


Alex can’t believe his luck and

stabs at the pile with his stick.

Gabriel knows this is a trick

and that he must now

help move the body.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.

How miracles are made

Now that the captain

has been freed from the pirates

everyone walking out of church

on their way to Easter brunch

will hear the story and swear

their prayers and yellow ribbons

had something to do with

his release.

I am pretty sure the pirates

have a god they pray to, too

and back at their Somali bases

everyone hearing of the lost captain

will listen and be thankful

that their prayers and deep submission

has allowed them to keep

200 other captives.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.

the ghetto ain’t get me

You see,

I’m from the ghetto

but the ghetto ain’t get me.

Just a temporary cave

for my immigrant family.

It was a place for our start

but never our destiny.

It has its place in my heart

but not intellectually.

Because I’m from the ghetto

but the ghetto couldn’t keep me.

The streets were too small

and the promises empty.

I knew there was more

than how they showed me on TV –

I never believed I had to be

          a baller or emcee.

          a dealer or junkie.

          a victim or flunkey.

Never believed I needed

fame or my name

in lights on a marquee.

Knew my claim was the same

as the makers of history.

Had no shame that my name

was buried in mystery.

‘Cause you see,

I’m from the ghetto

but the ghetto ain’t in me.

The ghetto ain’t my home,

it’s an alien country.

Just a puzzle in a maze

with walls that you don’t see.

It’s a death trap for men

whose ancestors weren’t gentry.

It’s the last place to start

for a legitimate entry.

They tried to steal my head

and my heart, but the

ghetto ain’t get me.

originally written around 1991-92: dug it out after viewing a bunch of Def Jam Poetry (because of a Borland recommendation) and recalling my own stints on stage. (ha.)

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.

How poetry fuels the world

I found a note

reminding myself

to pick up jalapeños,

cilantro and lemons

to make picante sauce

for one of your

family’s parties.


It was written

on the back

of a torn out page

from a book of poetry

that you gave me for

Valentine’s Day our

first year of dating.


I already had the book.

I kept the page

           You wrote.

I recycled the page

and the picante was delicious.


This proves that poetry

          is a renewable energy.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.