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Posts Tagged ‘family poetry’

for Alex, who said he hates me

 

 

It weighs heavy on me,

the things that you say

when you’re angry.

 

How mean you get in a hurry.

How blurry your love seems

at times. Your tongue becomes poison;

betrays our lives together …

we’ve been just fine. But

at times like these, I’m lost.

 

It’s the cost of being your Father,

not your friend. I know.

For now at least, my love,

I will take your slings and arrows,

ignore the million cuts –

 

I’ll tend instead to other seeds

I’ve planted … and hope for you,

strong roots, water, air and plenty of room,

And of course, a great bloom.

 

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2017. All rights reserved.

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for Gabriel, who is fourteen

.

Wrestling with you, nowadays,

both in spirit and in form,

reminds me how much you’ve grown.

When I brace myself,

my arms around you,

trying to hold you,

I can feel you breaking free.

I don’t know how much is me,

getting older and what is you,

growing stronger;

but it makes me think of Jacob

and the angel, in the end,

wishing the night could

be just an hour longer.

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pa’ mi mami

.

The first guests, my godparents,

turn the corner to begin their walk

down the driveway,

.

          (50 feet of uneven pavement

                framed between

                     my parents’ home and

                the Chinese neighbors

                        who’ve thrown away

                            a grocery bag of garbage

                     every week for 20 years)

.

… a ceremonial walkway for the invited

.

the gate left open to let what used to be

          a flood of relatives through …

but we are older

          and have lost a few to the earth

and others to unresolved conflicts

.

               (Even today, on my mother’s 60th

                         a new injury will be born

                when my middle brother

                        fails to celebrate with us)

.

I could see now, clearly what we had become

          as my father greeted his compadre and comadre,

my youngest brother,

                        (a suit wearing executive during the week,

                        in his weekend barrio wear;

                        pressed khakis & ultra-brite white tee)

pulling green plastic chairs for them to sit.

.

My godparents are frail,

          like half the crowd who will come today,

guests with measured steps and canes,

          and more still that come locked in arms

with the same person I remember them with

          from my childhood.

.

The music, Ecuadorian ballads mixed with

          Puerto Rican merengue and other

tunes from the roots of our America

.

                        (that faraway south

                                  painted in greens and grays and decorated

                        with eyes and teeth that strike out

                                  like stars in the night sky; smiling mouths

                        stuffed with bacalao and ceviche

                                  and full of laughter and Spanish)

.

Here too, the food is ready,

          paid for by my brother,

prepared by memories of my mother and

           abuela in the kitchens of the past;

my hands mix the red cebollas

          and lemons and limes and

               cilantro into nearly everything.

Everywhere there is pepper and garlic

                        mixing into the smoke dancing

                                                from the three grills we have going.

.

We brought together again,

          those people we only see at funerals now,

to celebrate what they had started

          before we existed;

leaving their childhoods behind

          they ventured out of sand dunes

and into snowstorms, unheralded;

           they traded their tiempo, every last

minute measured by train tokens

          and time cards they punched;

measured by checks that paid them

          only for their output and

never considered what they were

          really giving back to the dream

that is this America.

.

They sat around now

          frail, but victorious,

eating gumbo and platanos,

          arroz y gandules, barbecued chicken

camarones, hot dogs and

          hamburgers, topped with

ketchup and salsa picante, listening

          to the sounds of the past

exploding today in celebraccion.

.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

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 It begins shortly after I serve my two boys

a plate of white cookies and some chocolate milk,

while I’m dipping my burnt whole wheat crackers

 

(the English call Melba toast and sell to us suckers)

 

into chick peas I could have squashed myself,

 

(but purchased as hummus instead)

 

when the questions appear about opposites,

but quickly become infected with laughter

 

(in between chewing and kicking each other)

 

they spill silly pairs of the commonest things

and finally break all the rules of the logic

that makes any sense of the meaning of opposites

 

(Think of a bar room late in a shift)

 

when one of them questions that since it’s

okay to say you’re comparing apples

and oranges like they are unlike, then

surely there must be an opposite for ears?

 

Mouth I say, and tell them to finish their snack.

 

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved

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Talking about numbers

and feelings as villains

and the hatred that

we have for the way

our responsibilities

have coiled around our

ankles and wrists; cut into

our necks and stopped

our breaths from shouting

for help. But it sounds

like anger directed

at each other and we

are left more alone than

ever. I speak another

language at this moment.

You are from a distant

world; a different

place where there are

words for all the things

you mean to say, but

cannot be translated

for me. I know how

we became such aliens.

You were always

different than the others,

and I was not the same.

We were infected as

children with dreams

and fell in love with

stories where we

would be the heroes.

But now there are

no escapes; we cannot

convene in some secret

cave deep beneath

our mansion. The only

power that you have

is knowing all my

weaknesses. The

only plan I can think

of is holding on to you

and being quiet until

the bad guys leave

the room.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.

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 In comes Alexander,

5, uninvited to my

office where I write

and where he’s

supposed to knock

instead of storming in

like his namesake would.

 

Want to hear about

my robots”, he asks

spilling a half dozen

mini sculptures made

of multi-colored legos.

 

Not right now, I said

and firmer than it sounds

on paper.

 

But he goes on

explaining that the

first one with wheels

is a rover meant

to explore the surface

and it sends back

information to

the second one with

panels that is an

orbiter which always

stays in space and

it, in turn, beams

down instructions

to the third robot,

a long spindly thing

that is a tower for sending

out directions to the

two battlebots,

clunky pieces that

look like squares with

blasters mounted.

 

I didn’t want to know

but now I’ve been taken in.

 

He animates the ones

he’s talked about

pretending that there

is some mission underway.

I can’t help but ask

what the last undefined

robot does or is.

Alex picks it up, the

most elaborate of the

bunch, it is made of

flat pieces with gold

extensions and tiny

white caps, resembling

an alien artifact and

asks me if I really like it

before explaining

that it’s art and it

does nothing at all.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.

 

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Excuse me,

I’m a tiger

says my youngest son

crossing the kitchen.

 

He knows enough

to crouch low

and settles down

safely sitting behind

the breakfast table.

 

I flip the pancakes

as the bubbles pop

silently through the

hot batter sprinkled

with cinnamon that

fills the morning air.

 

Excuse me,

once again,

says the tiger,

but as you know

if you keep turning

your back to me

I will have to attack

because that’s

what tigers do.

 

I crack eggs

into a black skillet

and warn my son

that it’s dangerous

to fool around

when there are hot

things on the stove

and besides tigers

are afraid of fire.

 

He reminds me

that we have an

electric range that

makes heat but no

fire and besides

he wouldn’t have

to attack if breakfast

had been ready earlier.

 

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.

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