Experience something completely unique, outrageous, and beautiful! Ben Bac Sierra reading “El Toro” at City College of San Francisco’s Poetry for the People event. Over 100 people attended. Although the video does not show it, blessed brown fists were raised throughout the auditorium. It is my pleasure to present this to you.
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Here is the actual text that goes along with the video:
“After school,” Toro told Santo. Santo looked surprised, as if he did not understand this challenge. Santo thought that it must simply be a bad joke from a wannabe comedian.
“Bajo Park,” Santo smiled and walked away at the lead of the homeboys. He did not think twice about it because he did not consider Toro a very serious threat.
Toro, however, knew exactly what this meant. Throughout the day, he remained silent, lonely as always, yet strangely happy. When the school bell rang, he walked through the back streets where no one would see him. He knew that this would be the last time doing it this way. He knew that this day marked a beginning. Like with all new experiences, there was sadness, anticipation, and fear. He did not know whether he was making the best choice. The homeboys might jump him. The fight might mean embarrassment beyond belief, especially if he were to lose severely. The homeboys did not care about getting into trouble.
Toro knew only that the loneliness he endured and the shame he carried around in his heart were too much to bear. He would either break out of despair or die trying. No one else would fight his battle or force him to cross the street in fear. No one would snatch honor’s imagination away from him, for he saw himself as not so cool and not so quick with slick words and fine rhymes, but he saw himself accepted, and he imagined the noblest of words from other vatos locos’ mouths: “Toro, he’s crazy, a down homeboy.” And crazy was the best compliment he could ever hope for. For crazy meant he was sick with it and out of his mind: insane, no brain, one of the few and true. He knew that in the varrio a brain would not get you where you wanted to go, a mind made you a fool, perfect health meant you were worried about death—but crazy meant independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of pain—because Toro knew crazy had consequences. That’s what made crazy so complete and fulfilling; because it could never be mistaken for a fairy tale. All of the homeboys could believe in it. And a crazy homeboy only feared one thing: living too long. And a crazy homeboy would go up and meet the challenge without the security of confidence. A crazy homeboy was always unsure about every little movement and sound, but a crazy homeboy knew his insanity would never abandon him. As Toro closed in on the park and saw homeboys passing around a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 wine, Toro knew that this was sheer lunacy, yet he continued sure and steady.
He looked around at the scattered oak trees of Bajo Park, the empty basketball courts. Santo was nowhere. For one second, he knew it was not too late to turn back. Santo must have not taken the challenge seriously. Toro could return back to whence he came from without any loss of face, but Toro, instead, walked up to one of the homeboys and asked, “Where’s Santo?”
“He’s kickin it at the house,” the homeboy said.
“Go tell him that it’s time to fight,” Toro said.
The homeboy’s head retreated, confused at the audacity of such a person. “Who should I tell him’s here?” The young homie asked.
“He’ll know.” Toro folded his arms and postured himself against the wire gate. The homeboy took off. And Toro had never learned how to fight nor box. In his head, all Toro could do was go over Bruce Lee and Rocky movies because he had no game plan whatsoever.