A fluid, expansive new collection from a poet whose work "dazzles with [an] energetic exploration of the Puerto Rican experience in the new millennium" (NBC News)

Puerto Rican poet Vincent Toro's new collection takes the Latin American idea of an artistic social gathering (the "tertulia") and revises it for the Latinx context in the United States. In verses dense with juxtaposition, the collection examines immigration, economics, colonialism and race via the sublime imagery of music, visual art, and history. Toro draws from his own social justice work in various U.S. cities to create a kaleidoscopic vision of the connections between the personal and the political, the local and the global, in a book that both celebrates and questions the complexities of the human condition.

On Battling (Baltimore Strut)

 

Gray cased in gray, shaken

 

            and truncated like timber,

 

            the bleat rouses all provinces,

 

calling each seed to surface

 

and insist on a redress. This trumpet

 

            of grief and homespun placards

 

            is met with gunmetal treads

 

bruising the fruit stands, mustard

 

gas suffocating the night's

 

            coruscation. As elbows

 

            lock before storefronts

 

to shelter shop windows

 

from the wallop of pitiless

 

            Kevlar, as flares browbeat

 

            boulevards and arsenals

 

are dispatched across the wet

 

gravel, a single shirtless

 

            seraph unfurls himself

 

            upon the tarmac. Flexing

 

faux leather, he gyrates, feather-

 

glides, thunderclaps, then jukes

 

            toward the 16,000-pound

 

            armored personnel carrier.

 

The bullying smog flinches

 

at his voltaic gait, as he peacocks

 

            into the boomerang hour,

 

            cranes his neck and shrieks 

 

to remind the intruder your tanks

 

are no match for my toprock.

 

Days of Being Wild (dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 1990)

 

            (Dissolve)

 

At the funeral of his birth the seamstresses sing matte-muted adagio

 

of rouge and torn hems. Oleaginous in both mane and vow. Bronze

 

king of ennui. She drifts across oxidized hallways. Her dress, the slug

 

line. Blue filtered lights and non-filtered cigarettes imbibe them.

 

CUT TO:          Closing credits. Exit. Pressed

 

            suit preens for role

 

            as auteur's unsung enigma.

 

One mistakes soliloquy for an affair. The other lives as an atoll, divot-

 

headed and bleak-lacquered. Boast-throated, he follows her like

 

a tracking shot that took the crew three weeks to stage. With days

 

drenched in despondent night, they mutiny through stasis, resist

 

CUT TO:          Again, that infernal clock.

 

            Train car hemorrhaging, roof

 

            top scaled. An ellipsis.

 

the throttling of the hours toward shopping carts glutted with ailment.

 

These railways run parallel but incongruent; one stretches toward

 

longing, the other hunts for omission. They sleep in the wind of radio

 

static. She sways for the unthreaded fishhook. He is a desert gawking

 

CUT TO:          Suitcase. Flower print dress.

 

            Unrequited knock at brass

 

            gates. Clock, grief-stricken.

 

in Dutch tilt at the inebriated street that spurned him. Reviled Coke

 

bottles. Bedroom slippers under the vanity caught in soft focus. 

 

 

Castigated like a dipsomaniacal gumshoe by the blunted edge

 

of minutes. Triangulated cravings asphyxiate them. Each tantalizes

 

CUT TO:          Pearl earring gifted to

 

            the second thief once

 

            reclaimed from the first.

 

the other through taciturn tides of withholding. Hell-bent on boring

 

the sea. But this mise-en-scne does not belong to them. This

 

is the viewer's Malebolge, a whorl of truancy spliced from B-rolls

 

of rambunctious prodigals who refuse to catch what they chase.

 

CUT TO:          Clock. Stairwell in need

 

            of serenading. Threat posing

 

            as flirtation. Opening credits.

 

            (Fade in)

 

 

Disco Ballistics

 

friday nights we prep for hot

 

skirmishes. take three to five

 

business days to primp and pick out

 

duds. shave. apply makeup. contact

 

all accomplices. hail our platoon.          

 

then a cab. breach the checkpoint

 

            with a wink. order a round of shots

 

            during tactical strike assemblies. stake

 

            out our first kill of the evening. flanked

 

            by chaise lounges and black lights.

 

            the beat drops in syncopation

 

            with our first village

 

raid. clink our cosmos like mac clips.

 

chuck disco ball grenades into middle

 

schools. flirt bump and grind. spawn

 

mushroom clouds in unisex bathroom

 

stalls. flick cigarettes sucked

 

to the filter onto the casualties

 

            we create. the styles we pilfer. smack

 

            lips in the mirror. launch glitter drone

 

            assassinations. snipe the bartender's

 

            digits. swipe high-security specs

 

            detailing an after-party in Kabul. drop

 

            big tips like food rations into Yemen.

 

barrage insurgents with shock and awe

 

of strobe lights and unsanctioned

 

gropes. engage in a war of attrition

 

with the dj. execute a fashion victory

 

march through the city square. retreat

 

to a downtown studio loft bunker. order

 

 

 

            a stop-loss for champagne brunch

 

            in the meatpacking district. debrief

 

            platoon on the briefs graves pearls

 

            buried and plundered. court-martial

 

            the sun for insubordinate conduct

 

            during the ceremonial walk of shame.

 

Cicatristes (Demo Version)

 

who tucked you in                who tucked

 

you                  brought you to the park

 

who tucked you brought you

 

lemonheads      baseball cards

 

marbles            who tucked you

 

touched you     brought you

 

the dark you feared       who touched you

 

when he tucked you              told you

 

it was supposed            to make you

 

smile                but you did could

 

would should    not smile

 

when he           tucked you

 

brought you      whittled you

 

into alabaster    who tucked you

 

in also taught you                 alphabet

 

and shared        his nerds with you

 

read to you       stole you stickers

 

before he          tucked you      

 

read you fed     you dark and now

 

you laugh because        it cauterizes

 

the conundrum the humdrum

 

to recall who gave         you the word

 

the sour stomach           who tucked you

 

slit and gauzed you       gave you

 

first aid and who           granted you

 

the means         to read it

 

Core Curriculum Standards: PS 137

 

tiled floor bedecked

 

sepia of potato

 

chip wrappers wet

 

newspapers rusty nails

 

gym shoe musk

 

ambling through unkempt

 

hallways fissure fresco

 

of soda stains

 

ailing fidget spinners

 

computer lab windows

 

swathed in shroud

 

of dollar store

 

electrical tape incorrigible

 

asbestos cavities hum

 

cancer anthems dipped

 

in chocolate fluorescent

 

lights dial supplications

 

above bulletin board

 

molting pastel homilies

 

to auto repair

 

diorama sprawled across

 

webster avenue crowing

 

 

                        ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS

 

                        UNIT STUDY

 

                        EGYPTIAN GODS

 

                        AND PHARAOHS

© Vincent Toro
Vincent Toro is a Puerto Rican poet, playwright, and professor. He is the author of two poetry collections: Tertulia and Stereo.Island.Mosaic., which won the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award. He is a recipient of the Caribbean Writer’s Cecile deJongh Literary Prize, the Spanish Repertory Theater’s Nuestras Voces Playwriting Award, a Poets House Emerging Poets Fellowship, a New York State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship for poetry. His poetry and prose have been published in dozens of magazines and journals and have been anthologized in Chorus: A Literary Mixtape, by Saul Williams, Puerto Rico en Mi Corazón, Best American Experimental Writing 2015, Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump’s America, and The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext. He is an assistant professor of English at Rider University, a Dodge Foundation poet, and a contributing editor for Kweli Journal. View titles by Vincent Toro

About

A fluid, expansive new collection from a poet whose work "dazzles with [an] energetic exploration of the Puerto Rican experience in the new millennium" (NBC News)

Puerto Rican poet Vincent Toro's new collection takes the Latin American idea of an artistic social gathering (the "tertulia") and revises it for the Latinx context in the United States. In verses dense with juxtaposition, the collection examines immigration, economics, colonialism and race via the sublime imagery of music, visual art, and history. Toro draws from his own social justice work in various U.S. cities to create a kaleidoscopic vision of the connections between the personal and the political, the local and the global, in a book that both celebrates and questions the complexities of the human condition.

Excerpt

On Battling (Baltimore Strut)

 

Gray cased in gray, shaken

 

            and truncated like timber,

 

            the bleat rouses all provinces,

 

calling each seed to surface

 

and insist on a redress. This trumpet

 

            of grief and homespun placards

 

            is met with gunmetal treads

 

bruising the fruit stands, mustard

 

gas suffocating the night's

 

            coruscation. As elbows

 

            lock before storefronts

 

to shelter shop windows

 

from the wallop of pitiless

 

            Kevlar, as flares browbeat

 

            boulevards and arsenals

 

are dispatched across the wet

 

gravel, a single shirtless

 

            seraph unfurls himself

 

            upon the tarmac. Flexing

 

faux leather, he gyrates, feather-

 

glides, thunderclaps, then jukes

 

            toward the 16,000-pound

 

            armored personnel carrier.

 

The bullying smog flinches

 

at his voltaic gait, as he peacocks

 

            into the boomerang hour,

 

            cranes his neck and shrieks 

 

to remind the intruder your tanks

 

are no match for my toprock.

 

Days of Being Wild (dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 1990)

 

            (Dissolve)

 

At the funeral of his birth the seamstresses sing matte-muted adagio

 

of rouge and torn hems. Oleaginous in both mane and vow. Bronze

 

king of ennui. She drifts across oxidized hallways. Her dress, the slug

 

line. Blue filtered lights and non-filtered cigarettes imbibe them.

 

CUT TO:          Closing credits. Exit. Pressed

 

            suit preens for role

 

            as auteur's unsung enigma.

 

One mistakes soliloquy for an affair. The other lives as an atoll, divot-

 

headed and bleak-lacquered. Boast-throated, he follows her like

 

a tracking shot that took the crew three weeks to stage. With days

 

drenched in despondent night, they mutiny through stasis, resist

 

CUT TO:          Again, that infernal clock.

 

            Train car hemorrhaging, roof

 

            top scaled. An ellipsis.

 

the throttling of the hours toward shopping carts glutted with ailment.

 

These railways run parallel but incongruent; one stretches toward

 

longing, the other hunts for omission. They sleep in the wind of radio

 

static. She sways for the unthreaded fishhook. He is a desert gawking

 

CUT TO:          Suitcase. Flower print dress.

 

            Unrequited knock at brass

 

            gates. Clock, grief-stricken.

 

in Dutch tilt at the inebriated street that spurned him. Reviled Coke

 

bottles. Bedroom slippers under the vanity caught in soft focus. 

 

 

Castigated like a dipsomaniacal gumshoe by the blunted edge

 

of minutes. Triangulated cravings asphyxiate them. Each tantalizes

 

CUT TO:          Pearl earring gifted to

 

            the second thief once

 

            reclaimed from the first.

 

the other through taciturn tides of withholding. Hell-bent on boring

 

the sea. But this mise-en-scne does not belong to them. This

 

is the viewer's Malebolge, a whorl of truancy spliced from B-rolls

 

of rambunctious prodigals who refuse to catch what they chase.

 

CUT TO:          Clock. Stairwell in need

 

            of serenading. Threat posing

 

            as flirtation. Opening credits.

 

            (Fade in)

 

 

Disco Ballistics

 

friday nights we prep for hot

 

skirmishes. take three to five

 

business days to primp and pick out

 

duds. shave. apply makeup. contact

 

all accomplices. hail our platoon.          

 

then a cab. breach the checkpoint

 

            with a wink. order a round of shots

 

            during tactical strike assemblies. stake

 

            out our first kill of the evening. flanked

 

            by chaise lounges and black lights.

 

            the beat drops in syncopation

 

            with our first village

 

raid. clink our cosmos like mac clips.

 

chuck disco ball grenades into middle

 

schools. flirt bump and grind. spawn

 

mushroom clouds in unisex bathroom

 

stalls. flick cigarettes sucked

 

to the filter onto the casualties

 

            we create. the styles we pilfer. smack

 

            lips in the mirror. launch glitter drone

 

            assassinations. snipe the bartender's

 

            digits. swipe high-security specs

 

            detailing an after-party in Kabul. drop

 

            big tips like food rations into Yemen.

 

barrage insurgents with shock and awe

 

of strobe lights and unsanctioned

 

gropes. engage in a war of attrition

 

with the dj. execute a fashion victory

 

march through the city square. retreat

 

to a downtown studio loft bunker. order

 

 

 

            a stop-loss for champagne brunch

 

            in the meatpacking district. debrief

 

            platoon on the briefs graves pearls

 

            buried and plundered. court-martial

 

            the sun for insubordinate conduct

 

            during the ceremonial walk of shame.

 

Cicatristes (Demo Version)

 

who tucked you in                who tucked

 

you                  brought you to the park

 

who tucked you brought you

 

lemonheads      baseball cards

 

marbles            who tucked you

 

touched you     brought you

 

the dark you feared       who touched you

 

when he tucked you              told you

 

it was supposed            to make you

 

smile                but you did could

 

would should    not smile

 

when he           tucked you

 

brought you      whittled you

 

into alabaster    who tucked you

 

in also taught you                 alphabet

 

and shared        his nerds with you

 

read to you       stole you stickers

 

before he          tucked you      

 

read you fed     you dark and now

 

you laugh because        it cauterizes

 

the conundrum the humdrum

 

to recall who gave         you the word

 

the sour stomach           who tucked you

 

slit and gauzed you       gave you

 

first aid and who           granted you

 

the means         to read it

 

Core Curriculum Standards: PS 137

 

tiled floor bedecked

 

sepia of potato

 

chip wrappers wet

 

newspapers rusty nails

 

gym shoe musk

 

ambling through unkempt

 

hallways fissure fresco

 

of soda stains

 

ailing fidget spinners

 

computer lab windows

 

swathed in shroud

 

of dollar store

 

electrical tape incorrigible

 

asbestos cavities hum

 

cancer anthems dipped

 

in chocolate fluorescent

 

lights dial supplications

 

above bulletin board

 

molting pastel homilies

 

to auto repair

 

diorama sprawled across

 

webster avenue crowing

 

 

                        ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS

 

                        UNIT STUDY

 

                        EGYPTIAN GODS

 

                        AND PHARAOHS

Author

© Vincent Toro
Vincent Toro is a Puerto Rican poet, playwright, and professor. He is the author of two poetry collections: Tertulia and Stereo.Island.Mosaic., which won the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award. He is a recipient of the Caribbean Writer’s Cecile deJongh Literary Prize, the Spanish Repertory Theater’s Nuestras Voces Playwriting Award, a Poets House Emerging Poets Fellowship, a New York State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship for poetry. His poetry and prose have been published in dozens of magazines and journals and have been anthologized in Chorus: A Literary Mixtape, by Saul Williams, Puerto Rico en Mi Corazón, Best American Experimental Writing 2015, Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump’s America, and The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext. He is an assistant professor of English at Rider University, a Dodge Foundation poet, and a contributing editor for Kweli Journal. View titles by Vincent Toro

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