Tag Archives: latino poetry

Maid in Hollywood

para Lupe Ontiveros


Now that she is a vieja

with dyed blonde hair

and not a threat to any gringa’s

beauty when she steps into

the frame of someone else’s fame,

you get to know her nombre, hombre.


Lupe Ontiveros

does not roll off your tongue

and she paints no picture

in your mind because

you never knew she

was acting like a star.

You never went to a matinee

looking for her name

or waiting for Lupe to say,

the only lines she always had,

after knocking on the door

and peeking in, “Excuse me,

senior, do you need room service?”


She was a minority detail

in the mise en scene of

the movies we all went to see.

While the stars of film and life

carried on in the foreground

of our attention, in soft light and

perfect make up, with witty

lines and music for the moment,

Lupe was in the background, like us.


But she had a master key

to Hollywood, a back door entrance

that service people used to bring in

the catered lunches and distilled agua;

and when no one was looking,

she was letting otros enter,

making room for dreamers named

Lopez, Alba, Rodriguez, Dawson,

del Toro, Hayek, Mendes,

y para ti tambien.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved


The Lord’s Prayer: broken by spoken Spanglish

      as I tell this
          because it is remembered
     in more than one language
          slipping between tongues

     twisted by root meanings

               Padre nuestro,
               que estas en el cielo
how do I decide

     where the truth


          la verdad
     is when I rely on memories
          spoken in broken Spanglish?


               Santificado sea su nobre.
Whole conversations
     that I’ve had in my life

          that are lost not just

     to time but also

          to palabras perdidas


               Venga tu reino
               Hágase tu voluntad
I have lost so much more

     to yesterday than I have

          to ayer o el dia pasado    

but death is hardly tampoco

          a match for la muerte I will take death

1,000,000,000,000 times

          Over una muerte

               En la tierra como en el cielo
Because I was first afraid
     of the dark in Spanish

          then certain things will always

remain in that language

     Veo la luz
     Vivo el dia
     Tomo el agua
     Amo ha mi madre

     Trago mi comida


The English of my conversation

          has turned out not to be

            any sort of escape from    

those awful terrors

but a sharp, cold burrowing tool.

               Danos hoy el pan de este día
               y perdona nuestras deudas
The reality is

     I am losing everything

          in these translations

I cannot balance the equation that I am –

          the calculus of my temporary stages

Whenever I’ve stopped to observe it

          I affected the outcome

          and rendered it all useless

Proof of how loco estoy

               como nosotros perdonamos
               nuestros deudores

 always the two sides

          se quieren matar

because there is no hero

          solo maldades y el diablo

a desperate tale of minor

     chapters I can’t write down

     because I was born

          naci aqui,

between times and tongues

               y no nos dejes caer en la tentación

     sometimes I wonder what

      the voices are really saying

        because they are as grainy as the faces

          they belonged to and the reason

           I love watching sand and thinking

how their ancestors

     las montanas, las piedras          

were cut down to size sobre tiempo    

by el mar y el viento

               sino que líbranos del malo


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.



the words escape me

today the words

are not cooperating

it is like they are reverting

to their feral state

in my mind

they bite at their leashes

gnaw off their limbs

until they have chewed themselves free

of my memories

and run off into the darkness to hide

and wait in ambush until

i go hunting for them again


it has been like this lately


i have been pulling out old

photographs as evidence that

these words belong to me and

that we belong together

how well i had caged some of them

for so long that they died

when they escaped back into

the wilderness


the way my father became

just another man before he turned

into a stranger is the same way

that words end up dying —

     eaten by others bigger and hungrier

than memory


when i go hunting tonight

i’ll be covered in blood

hoping to be devoured myself.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2008. All rights reserved.

Anniversary Poem

One year.
One hundred and nine posts.
Almost ten thousand hits.


I sent out e-mails to everyone I know.

But very few ever noticed.

The ones that matter did, do

     and continue to visit.


Strangers from everywhere found me

     let me find them –

we drew a circle around us

     became voices without bodies

connected by a longing

     to say, share, be.


I didn’t think I had it in me.

     I had stopped believing

that others had it in them

     and was happiest to learn

I was wrong about everything.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2008. All rights reserved.


(Thank you to everyone who has shared a moment’s time here. Without you … I might have quit long, long ago … A Special thanks to Tillona, Bryan, Bomi, S.L., SonofWalt, Jeannie, Barbara, Camille, Lo, Bluebethley, Christine, Julie, Norma, and my wife, Rose. I hope I have something left to say besides I love you.)

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)

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.


the science of supersition

On the same day

     that the Large Hadron Collider

     was turned on to peel away

     the secrets of the universe

          by smashing circling atoms

          at near absolute zero

          at nearly the speed of light

     into each other

I had to listen to someone

     tell me how Nostradamus

     had predicted that this

     day would come.

I explained that the Mayans knew it first.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2008. All rights reserved.