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Henry Morro: California Poets Part 3, Three Poems

Henry Morro

June 25th, 2021

California Poets: Part III

Henry Morro

Three Poems

Zoot Suit

I, too, desired a suit with a gold chain

dangling below my knee,

and a cross swinging over my chest,

baggy pants pegged at the ankles,

and the all-black ensemble

with a wide-brim hat.

You had to pull the pants tight

above the waist like a fat boy, a style

that could get your ass kicked on the street.

Once you had the suit

all you did was strut around,

show up at a club, lean against the rail.

How you danced with that chain

and hat, sweating like a hog,

swaying in that long coat,

doing that slide across the linoleum floor.

Any Job

The men straggle into the cold warehouse

draped in tattered shirts, torn sweaters,

army jackets, their hats crowned

with logos—NY Yankees, UCLA,

Puerto Rico. Sometimes when they speak

I see gaping holes in their mouths

form the missing teeth.

Sometimes they arrive

in twos and threes—wandering

from warehouse to warehouse like a lost tribe.

Sometimes a son will lead his father

and speak for him, the father standing back,

his eyes open, the son boasting to me,

he can drive anything—give him a shot.

When they fill out the applications

they scribble the reason

for leaving each job:

laid off

temp work only

company moved away

owner died

Sometimes one of them is bold

enough to write fired.

Another one wrote,

fired for fighting,

and for another job he wrote,

fired for drinking with the boss.

Under “Special Skills” they scrawl:





I glance out the window

at the downtown skyline.

I know that when I pull down

the Help Wanted sign, still they will keep

shuffling into the warehouses,

hunched in the cold,

gaping holes in their mouths.

Marilyn Monroe Is Dead

When Marilyn Monroe stepped onto that iron grate,

her skirt billowing like a parachute,

I fell in love with her white skin and her blond hair.

Back home, I broke the mariachi music

on the stereo, songs of women sleeping in buses,

buses filled with men lugging chickens and knives

through Panama and El Salvador,

migrating across

the immense Mexican desert

to the fiery border.

We had come to this country for the TVs and Cadillacs,

for the money and the skyscrapers.

When I saw Marilyn’s shimmering legs,

I was ashamed of my dark skin,

ashamed of the Latinas

and their sweet-fifteen debutant parties

where girls became women

without ever touching a man’s body.

Without ever touching my brown body.

Whenever Uncle Reynaldo

showed up with his blond wife,

his brothers would flirt with her

in their thick accents,

in their best busboy English,

offering her their English

their own crooked words

shaped while working sixteen hours a day

in the kitchens, in the boiler rooms,

in the factories—sixteen hours a day

to break through the language.

Marilyn is dead and I feel the dark

Indian blood that’s run

silent for hundreds of years,

coming back,

and I feel the language of peasants

and machetes, of machine guns and priests,

the language of gold and silver,

of gods and flesh,

the language that built the pyramids,

temples, cathedrals and plantations,

that sacrificed virgins,

that fought the Marines.

That dangerous language is coming back.

Author Bio:

Henry J. Morro was born in Costa Rica and at the age of two his family moved to San Francisco. He lived there until he was sixteen, when his family reversed the American Dream and moved back to Nicaragua. After the great earthquake in 1972, his family moved to Los Angeles. He graduated from California State University, Los Angles, and began writing poetry. He has taught poetry in public schools and prisons. He has also edited literary journals and anthologies. In addition to his poetry appearing in the West Coast and national publications, in 1994 New Alliance Records released Somoza’s Teeth, a CD recording of his poetry. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two daughters. His new and selected, The Zoot Suit Files, was recently published and is available through Amazon and at Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts center.


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