Tag Archives: poems

On choosing

Every day the light

comes up at the top

of the world


the churn goes on

grinding down

and pushing out

as well


everything is going

on as before

according to

the same laws —


the furthest star

is twice as far today

than one we’ll see



the only thing

that’s changed

are the subtle

combinations —


the queerest force

called chance by most

who fail to comprehend


the only mark we leave

in time is what we do

while living.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

Ahhh; diction …

Every time I get one right,

a line that reads like music

or the perfect word surrounded

by almost perfect neighbors;

something happens to me,

and I promise myself

that there will be no more

restless nights chasing that high.


You’ll never see me

again crawling on my hands

and needs, picking through

the carpet or looking for a pen,

scratching on a blank page

or imagining a connection

between anything I scribble

and what I have been living.


And yet I know there is no cure.

I am a sick and unwell man,

and even obscurity cannot fix me

the way a few lines thrown together

can ease the pain for junkies.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

In defense of an ordinary man

So, I’m not good enough?

     I don’t match up?

I know it’s the superheroes

     that you love so much.

They’re such tough hombres,

     even though you say

it’s not the muscles but

     the strut;

the way they command a room

     when they enter,

the quick reflexes

     the poise in dangerous situations

how they give as good as they get

     the way they defend your honor

and good name

     in their tight rayon/ lycra blend suits

with their superhero signs

     emblazoned on their chests.

But what of me?

    I’m the one with a real job.

The sensitive male

     friend who happens

to be a good listener.

     Who awakens early

to shower and shave

     to stand & pay

for an overpriced latte

     never late to a meeting or a date –

that makes me invisible?

     (wouldn’t just one superpower be great?)

So what if I get nervous

     in front of cute girls like you

that’s no reason to ignore me.

     I’ve got excellent qualities –

               I won’t wait ‘til the last moment to take action,

               I won’t disappear when you turn to thank me,

               I won’t wear the same outfit to various functions,

               I won’t hide behind a mask or cape,

Or lead a secret double life

where loving you is less important than saving the day.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

Gods in Good Standing*

Born of the trails in our minds

marking music and time,

the first gods were known

to have perfect camouflage –

they dressed as the wind and the rain

shook the earth, flooded plains

retreated to the stars above

and slowly grew in our dreams.


What happened next

in that darkness

we’ll never know exactly,

but glean from cave walls

and arrow heads, from beads

and bands buried with the dead

that some in the clan

needed magic and preferred

not to be reminded

of their short stay

and had no other way

to learn of the world … yet.


So instead, our animal brains

adopted incense and gemstones

drew symbols as portals

fell in love with the abracadabra

of magical thinking,

started linking mere chance with a meaning,

and passed whatever the leader was dreaming

as a sign from above.


And little by little

these lies kept infecting

everyone everywhere

while promising protection

from the neighboring gods

and the horde from next door,

while delivering nothing more

than a lifetime of prayer

as salvation from boredom.


What a sickness it was.

Like a virus over time

and across space,

leaving no room

for a question that challenged

what little was known of ourselves

and having to face

whatever the gods were pretending

to reveal to the head of the state.


In this way the deluded

were able to steal the time

and the minds and the work

of the people they fooled

with cruel lies as a tool

to build monuments and

monoliths with the money

they took from those who

were not in on the ruse.


‘Til at last the Truth was revealed

(a little at least) by words

that were spoken by those

who wouldn’t be fleeced,

by people who wouldn’t be sheep

who dared to speak back

about what they had seen

and learned of the world

from eyes and ears that were

keener than those who had

hidden themselves in the spell

whose magic no longer worked

to explain any heaven or hell

or anything ever on Earth.


And now, the only gods in good standing

have slipped back into silence

leaving believers nothing but relics

and rituals that belong to an age

before science.


* Title is borrowed from a Richard Dawkins speech

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

Knowing How the World is Broken

for Haiti after 2010 earthquake


Damage to the Presidential Palace is most obvious,

for it is hard to tell which of the other buildings

were already on their knees when the shaking struck.


In the pictures I have seen,

wide eyes look out

from their black and brown backgrounds

onto a fresh horror that

arrived from deep beneath the earth.


The soil is used to blood in Haiti

and the world is used to watching.


The news reports say the quake registered

seven on the scale,

but the island has been at the epicenter

since Columbus landed with smallpox and crucifixes –

lost but determined to profit.


To rebuild the Presidential Palace,

     where the Tonton Macoutes were born

     where Poppa schooled Baby Doc

          to brutalize in the grandest Western way,

               first in ties and suits and then

              wearing pleated uniforms with

              officers’ hats and a small herd of

              medallions hung from their breasts

              marking where their hearts had died,

postcards will be used for comparison.


In the pictures I have seen

it is clear that the heavens too

turned their backs long ago

just as we do daily here on earth.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

The flint breaks away

a poem for the cavemen


Sticks and branches were not enough,

     the big cats and other beasts 

had learned the bluff;

other groups had big sticks, too.

And in their natural state,

     rocks just would not do.

Then like magic,

           the flint breaks away

     and with it some of the darkness

          and the fear.

There was an edge now to our being,

     like new found claws or tiger jaws,

     weapons we learned to hold dear.

From then on rock pounded rock, 

     with a purpose and a plan.

Art was born and moved us along;

     thoughts turned inward now

the birth of man.

The search for god, meaning and a plan.

From the flint was born,

     the bulls at Lascaux, a father for fire,

dreams of angels, fat  man and little boy.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved

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

Ending a conversation about opposites

 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

Sermon for the godless

I sleep late with my certainty

on Sunday morning, letting the

day break the spell of darkness

like it always has;  subtly at first

and then revealing the full

nature of our spinning.

I have learned to keep

the necessary things that prove

their place in the universe;

that show their accidental

designs in their morbid

architecture – free of ghosts,

or gods breaking laws

of the reality I am forced

to live and learn of.

Magic insults my mind,

my heart, the coffee in my cup,

the steam that makes its

presence known in sunlight.

I have no use for lines

and lies and lore

written in the darkness

of our early fears,

luring us from learning

done against the liturgy

that strives to steal the

wonder woven from letters

and numbers unwilling to bow

or break before superstition.

I believe in the seasons of the year

and the stretch of a day;

the length of shadows

extending further and becoming

less descriptive of their casters.

My garden has taught me

everything I need to know

of caring and kindness.

My aging face reminds me

I am just a metaphor

and that I must rest,

for I have worked all week

proving gravity and love.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.


When I ask you for your number

you joke and say it’s infinity.


I ask how I’m supposed

to dial that and you tell me

that you can’t be reached.


I laugh to check your

legs out and read what

everything else is saying.


You smile at me and I forget

the rules of what we’re playing.


Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.