Poems by Vincent Toro

February 2019

Sonicphrastic: Caribendiciones
                                    after Michel Camilo

Cuba and Puerto Rico
are the two wings of a bird.
—Lola Rodríguez de Tió

pero what about DR hermanito?
            nah nah nah see. this

bird got three wings. got three
                        that all sing cuando she
flutters them. trade winds

            bounce scorch reefs
                        like Anacaona’s name

            on tyrant tongues.
this bird see got three
            wings unfurled across

                                    this gulf this bird
            ’mano, assembles
symphonies that sail three
                        nah seven continents
            in 5/4 counts. barons

and lords flinch when they
                        knock on these
shores. derelict. indecent
            descendants repent when
these feathers unfurl to outclass

            the classical
                        out-savage the euro
            when he brands your staccato
                        obscene. but
this bird primo this one got wings.

three. each threshing feather
            sports eighty-eight keys,
unlocking a googolplex
                        of coops mi gente.
get it. three wings nah thirteen wings

nah seven thousand wings (qué pasa
                        Trinidad Saint Kitts Martinique
                                    las otras?) on this dove
            flexing  multi-atti-pulchri-alti-            e-tudes
of hues ’mano!


“Cuba y Puerto Rico son / de un pájaro las dos alas”; Lola Rodríguez de Tió, “A Cuba,” in Mi libro de Cuba: Poesías (Havana: Imprenta la Moderna, 1893).



Mutiny at the Elder Care Facility

Had to summon four orderlies and my
aunt to confiscate the knife bisabuela
stashed in her bloomers. Snatched
during breakfast, she held the blade
to her chest like a cross, as the impious
attempted to strip the shiv that was her
only protection. From what? At ninety,
bisabuela drives the men of the home
to act like hormone glutted teens. They
pitch their wheelchairs before her wing
with hopes of catching one whiff of her
Vic’s Vapor Rub. She got all Roberto
Duran on one for trying to woo her
during Sabado Gigante. These last six
weeks no nurse’s aide has been able
to feed or wash her. She doesn’t need
them. Anyone. When viper-headed
spouses ventured to deplete her ores,
she swayed like a weary banyan but
never cracked. And when despots
occupied the coasts and forced her
to replant herself in a city that worked
double shifts to give her hypothermia,
she was a bulwark. Staged her own
brand of insurgency by turning deaf
to their language. Vowed to one day
reclaim her villita and never set foot
on this godforsaken continent for all
her remaining days. But her damn kids.
They did make her return. For what?
Just because she left the stove on one
time. Now some infant in scrubs insists
on wiping her. Well, she’s had enough.
Coño. She’s keeping the knife. Whoever
thinks about taking it, or anything else,
from her can be sure to feel its pinch.



Anthropomorphic Study of the Antilles

Parabola of mangroves in an equatorial yawn,  
            blue dunes deflecting the Gaze that leers
                        at her glades and sierras, she dodges
                                                lustful overtures to her
                                    sun-drenched alcoves,
                                    summons Guabancex to halt the erection
                                                            of bitcoin brothels fencing her

            basins and charging membership fees. When
                                                she insists that she is not
                        property, cannot be consumed
                                    for private pleasure, the Gaze collects
                                    armies and lawyers, draws up

                                                charters that she is forbidden
                                    to vote on. Her barrier reefs break
                                    the tide of offenders groping at her piers,
                                                scattering a season of pathogens

                                    claiming her lots vacant as they stoop
                                                to appraise her star apples.
                                                            Cornered, she stings,
                                                            wades out into uncharted shoals

                                                            beyond earshot of chancellors
                                    branding her bruja and harlot, epithets she
                                                mulls and ferments into a caney

                                                            for her son Bayamanaco
                                                who burns the leeches listed
                                                in the Panama Papers. She starves

                                                                        them until they divest
                        and sheathe their cara palos. They beg to lasso

                                    her and teethe on her coral. She shakes  

                                                them loose, rattling her Beata Ridge

            to make it plain she is not kept. They call her Sycorax,

                                    but she is no foil in some sallow man’s tale.

                                                            She is not grief tinted or deprived,
                                                            no mere harbor

                                                for the wanton and the loused, was not

                                    put here for an other’s private

                                                            swashbuckling. Unbound

                                    by syllogism, circumstellar
                        and circumspect, she adorns red

                        clay, is Milwaukee Deep,
            gets all Kick ’Em Jenny on armadas
            that approach without consent.



Vincent Toro is the author or STEREO.ISLAND.MOSAIC. (Ashahta, 2016), which was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s 2017 Norma Farber First Book Award and the 2015 Sawtooth Poetry Prize. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of a Poet’s House Emerging Poets Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, the Caribbean Writer’s Cecile De Jongh Poetry Prize, and the Metlife Nuestras Voces Latino Playwrights Award. Vincent is a professor at Bronx Community College, is poet in the schools for Dreamyard and the Dodge Poetry Foundation, is the writing liaison for Cooper Union’s Saturday Program, and is a contributing editor at Kweli Literary Journal.