My father didn’t have

A record



He had a

Record library


I’d say he had

Close to a thousand

Record albums


He treated each

Album with the

Utmost respect


He’d take an album

Out of its jacket

like a newborn


Touching only

The edges


Making sure to never

Get fingerprints

On the grooves


Each record

Was black


The grooves were

Like the waves

In my father’s hair


He used pomade

But never got it

On his albums


His collection was



The Drifter’s greatest hits


Miles Davis…Seven Steps to heaven


The Electrifying Eddie Harris


Willie Bobo


I listened to

Those records


Tony Bennett



“In the Wee small hours of the morning”


I wasn’t allowed

To touch

His albums


But I did


I tried to be

Careful like

My dad


But I’d get


On those records


Dad would take a record

Out and hold it

To the light


He could

Detect those



He truly

Missed his



He should’ve

Been a



Those records




And black


And shimmering

In the



And nobody

Ever took

My fingerprints


Except my








Heart Language



What’s happening?
What up?
What it be?
What it be like?

Heartbeats that
Sound like
Things that are
On my mind that
I can’t seem to
Say, that are stuck
In my throat like ants
In a jar of honey

What’s up wit cha?
Where you at?


Pally Alto



‘Sup homes


You feel me?






© 2016 Tony Robles

Frisco Body Frisco Soul

Suck the marrow from our bones
Gut the innards of our homes
Condemn the history on our walls

Frisco body
Frisco soul

Bullet from a
cop’s gun
piercing the black

scarlet ripples shiver
over the skin of the

Frisco body
Frisco soul

our block, our home,
our playground, our
corner store, the place where
I took my first step

(The real estate developer’s wet dream)

Frisco body
Frisco soul

The word Frisco removed
from our flesh and bones by
high pressure hoses leaving
behind the smell of death

Frisco body
Frisco soul

Strip the murals of color
Strip the heart of blood
Strip skin from bone

Frisco body
Frisco soul

The city sits
deep in our skin, the
light still shines in the
sockets of our eyes

Frisco born
and bred

Frisco body
Frisco soul

(c) 2015 Tony Robles

Missing you in SF

I am a flat
I am an apartment
I am a house
I am an SRO hotel
I am an inlaw room
I am an outlaw room
I am a blown out candle

My DNA/finger/foot
Heart prints are in
North Beach

I am in your blood
I am in your skin
I am in your bone
I am in your memory
I am in your mind

Your lungs are filled
With my fog that
Creeps across Ocean Beach

My fog horn breath
Opens your eyes and
Enters your pores every

I am a house
A room
An empty space
In your heart

I miss you

This flat is
Flat without

This apartment is
Nothing since we
Were pulled apart

This room holds
No space, no life
No music, no laughter
Since they separated
You from me and me
From you

We were pulled apart
But your hair is still
In my drain, your grease
Is stuck to my stove, your
Grace runs through my pipes

My hardwood floors
And stairs still vibrate
In tenors, altos, baritones
In the color of every tone
Of your life

And our walls
Sweat in black
Brown, yellow
White and all
Hues in between

And the clock’s
Ticking face counts
The minutes, hours,
Days, months, years
You’ve been gone

And we wait as our
Innards are gutted

Awaiting your

© 2016 Tony Robles

Blow it

I go through
Life thinking
I’m a poet

But I feel
Like a blow it

(no, not THAT
Kind of blow it)

Maybe a
Blow it

I remember
People saying
Don’t blow it

And I would
Blow it

Like a candle

The light
Is there, then
It is not

You blew
it, kid

Don’t blow
It next

Is it possible
To be a poet
And not blow it?

If you blow
It as a poet

Blow it
Like this:

Like Miles,
Like Coltrane, Coleman,
Rollins, Shorter

Bob Kaufman

Blow it like
No one else

Blow it
The way it
Should be blown

Blow it
Like a

© 2016 Tony Robles

Sweat (For Midtown Tenants)

This afternoon

I sweated black


Somehow the night

Formed beads

And collected in the

Folds of my skin and

Places where the sun

May yet shine


It collected in my

Body, sopped up by

Fingers, thumbs, in

An attempted to hide


It was sweat that refused

To be swift, sweat that

Took its sweet time


But I couldn’t hide

The blackness of my

Sweat, the sweat of

My blackness


The gleam and

Pearl like voices sprouting

Up like a field of black

Mushrooms over the shadow

Stretch of skin


Each bead ready

To pop


Today I sweated



A symphony of



Ready to



In the unfolding

Of my skin



© 2015 Tony Robles

Land of Ten Thousand Evictions

land of forgotten faces
land of forgotten lives
land of golden gated community
where you throw away time,
and the key

land of ten thousand
quaint postcard, postscript,
postmortem fairy tales

land of rolling hills
and bills footed by
the poor and working class

land where black is a
curse, criminalized, shot dead
for being, breathing,
living what’s in the skin

land of ten thousand false
friends and ten thousand curses
welling up in the pent up drums
of our ears

land of ten thousand
elders living in fear of eviction,
the trembling fear in their bellies
tightening into a fist, breaking through
the brick wall faces of the faceless
invisible greed whose face is everywhere

land of rolling hills and rolling lies
and cable car lullabies that lull
you to sleep with your eyes open

land of the crooked street
crooked eyes
crooked tongue
crooked smile

land of ten thousand tattoos burned
onto the sacred ground of our
skin, the sacred mural of our skin,
the sacred skin of our skin

land of lives strewn,
cast on street corners
cast in a bad movie
with blinking red lights
and glances without eyes

land of the splintered
sole, hobbling, dragging
the cast-aside memory of
heavy clouds in blue, green,
black and white

land of the condo club
on every corner
where politicians pimp their
asses to the developers’ 10 ten
thousand erections

land of ten thousand

ten thousand

ten thousand empty

ten thousand


San Francisco Hands

Taiko skin drum
hands pulled tight
over swirling smoke

Tongue traced poems
on the roofs of
evicted mouths

Rattlesnake hands
wrapped in a cause
of gause, dipped
in one part blood
one part dream
one part love

Crawfish hands stained
with Louisiana dust,
hands that cradled my
mind until my mind
became a movement of dust

Filipino hands that
carried fish head storms
cradling what needed to
be cradled and doing what
needed to be done

San Francisco hands
recycling dreams like pearls
from the bottom of the bay
and loaded onto a nameless
ship floating down Market Street

San Francisco hands,
amputated and impaled
crawling over stone braille
silence towards a keyboard
of an empty black church

San Francisco hands attached
to fingers plucking barbed wire
strings of a mandolin heart, vibrating
across the waters of our skin,
a naked story written in sky

San Francisco hands
crying tamborine

never seamless
never silent

San Francisco

(c) 2014 Tony Robles

Poem for an OG

what’s up O.G.?
the women say as
you walk by

you got a cigarette?

and sometimes you got
a smoke and sometimes
you don’t

the smoke has
settled and the once
neon lights that smiled
in their self assuredness
are distant flickers

O.G., original
gangster, played every
game, knew every
hustle backwards and forwards

O.G., still hustlin’,
still sellin a dream or
two, a watch, a radio,
a coat or even a late night
bus transfer

Hey O.G.,
let me talk to you for
a minute

As you strut down
the runway/one way/No way
that is Market st.

Hearing half of what
is said and seeing

O.G., limpin’ down
the street with a diluted
tattoo that sits like a puzzle
piece in a mural that has
been stripped of its color,
its dream, its identity

O.G. they call you,
and sometimes you ain’t in
the mood for that O.G. shit,
sometimes it might just as well
stand for:


But when you light
that cigarette, it lights
up the whole of Market Street
as well as the eyes of those
that remember you

What’s up O.G., you got
a cigarette?

(c) 2014 Tony Robles.

Poem for God (For my uncle)

My uncle,
the preacher man

it ain’t about
you, me or
the red sea

it ain’t about
the Oakland Raiders,
Dallas Cowboys, the
Kentucky colonel or
the Kentucky derby

it ain’t about Obama,
Bush, Clinton, Reagan,
Nixon, Abe Lincoln,
Washington, Franklin
or the king of rock n’ roll

it ain’t about
the golden gate
bridge or the space

it ain’t about the
golden horn, the golden
calf or the goose that
laid the golden egg

it ain’t about cable
or wireless or flat screens
flat soda, or flat beer

it ain’t about
red, black, brown,
white, yellow
or blue

it ain’t about
the blues, the greens
or the in-betweens

it ain’t about
radios, computers,
washing machines,
cell phones or wall

it ain’t about,
condos, condoms,
condemnations or
con men

As my uncle says,
it ain’t about you,
me or the red sea

it ain’t about
none of that

and my uncle
looks at me
and says

it’s about
God, you

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