City of 10,000 apps

A selfie can make

You healthy, wealthy

And wise


If a selfie doesn’t

Do it, there’s always

An app


An app to erase

Your memory, erase

Your conscience clear


An app to wash

Your dog


An app to

Brush your

Teeth (or your dogs)


An app to remove

Unwanted things, namely

Seniors, people of color,

Houseless people


(Leaving behind, of course

Their murals and art)


There’s an app

To wipe your



Or an app to get

Someone else to

Wipe your app


An app to make

Your coffee


An app to wipe

The fog from your



And app to wipe

Thick gravy from

Your mouth


And app to

Buff your nails


And scrape your

Tongue and floss

Your teeth


And for you artisan

Motherfuckers, an app

To pour your beer


Oh, and lets not



An app to rub your

Hairy little b*lls

And make French



Now, isn’t

That just nice?



© 2015 Tony Robles


The old man had

Gotten a stereo

Years ago


It was a system

That was known

As high fidelity


And he listened

To much music

Over that stereo


And those songs

Were hard, smooth,

Buttery, velvety

Jazz, soul and everything

In between


And those songs settled

Into a committed sound


And after a while

Those songs began to

Sound the same and he

Sought out more variety


And that high fidelity

Became infidelity and

Those songs that had once

Been so smooth faded into

Something like telephone static


And years later at the funeral of

A good friend, the old man said

That he and the deceased had been

Womanizers and self-proclaimed

“Hell on wheels”


And the buttery, velvety

Soulful sounds filled the

Mortuary and I believe some

Even rose from the dead


And years later, I too was

Experiencing my own

Situation between high fidelity

And infidelity


(Minus the velvety, buttery smoothness)


I called the old man

To ask his



And through the static

Of the telephone, his voice

Came in loud and clear:


Ha ha ha ha haha

Haha ha ha ha ha

Ha ha  hahaha ha


Ha ha ha

Ha ha ha ha ha

Ha ha ha ha ha ha


(Then a pause)


…ok, now what did you

Say your problem was?



© 2015 Tony Robles






The River of Black

Riding down the

Road of my



Cutting into

The road of

My skin


Beating into

The road of

My skin


Desecrating the

Road of my



Blinking red

Burning into



Clubs beating

On the rib cage

Of my mind


My words, my

Thoughts, my songs

Look for freedom


My skin is

A river,

A river of black


I see clear in

The river, the

River sees the

Clearness in me


The river runs

Over my body


The voices, the cries

From the water sing

In the pores of

My mind


The river

Sees clearly


The river of black

That is me, my mother,

My father, my brother, my



In the road

Of my skin


The river of black

That is




© 2015 Tony Robles


The City of Mr. Wong

San Francisco
City of many stories
City of many songs
City of many legends
City of many moons

City of Mr. Wong

Now, don’t get me
Wrong, but old man
Wong was cool

And this ain’t no
Poem about Mr. Wong
Having gold in his teeth,
Dust on his shoes or mountains
Carved into his shoulders

Ain’t seen Mr. Wong in
Many moons, what ever
Became of him?

We were security guards
Together in a warehouse

Mr. Wong had worked
There a long time, he was
Very old, the oldest security
Guard I’d ever seen

He had so much seniority
That he could get away with
Being out of uniform—which
Included pajama bottoms,
Kung fu slippers and a wool
Sweater with faded argyle stitching

Topped with security guard hat

He had one good ear that
Could hear better than

Mr. Wong never
Scolded me, he
Schooled me

“Don’t trust that guy” he’d say,
“he drinks like a fish”


“Don’t put rubbers in
Your back pocket because
They’ll melt”

And Mr. Wong had moist
Eyes that squeezed, never

And he saw
It all very clearly

Especially those
Many moons

© 2016 Tony Robles

Born in San Francisco

I can’t say I know you
Like the back of my hand
But I know what the back
Of a hand feels like

I keep that feeling
In the back of my mind,
Close like a pimple out of
Reach from the scrape of a nail

I don’t know all
Your cracks, crevices
Or fault lines

But you are intimately
Familiar with

I couldn’t tell you who invented
The cable car or sour dough
Bread or what the seats in
Seal’s Stadium felt like

On the back of my hand I
Scribble the phone number of
A guy I ran into the other day

I hadn’t seen him in years

Told him I’d call him
But when I got home the
Number had faded into my
Skin and when I dialed the number
It was disconnected

I can’t say I know every street,
Every corner, every hill that is
Carved, painted on your face

I don’t know every face or
Every place that has passed
Through the eyes of a child in
This piece of sky but I have felt
The rain as it escaped and found
My skin

I can’t say I know you
Like the back of my

But I can say I was
Born from your
Womb, a tunnel
Going one way
With lights going opposite

For whatever
That’s worth

© 2015 Tony Robles

Body of work

In order to write
one line, i had
to get past him

my father stood
in front of me
with an arsenal
to back him up

toilet brushes
and a putty knife
for the hard to
remove shit

you think you
can write? he

you can’t even
mop a floor

you think you’re
a writer?

all you got to
do is get
past me

and a line
was drawn
where i stood

I couldn’t move,
couldn’t contemplate

and i was a
part of his attempt
to get a slice of the
american pie

a two man
(actually 1 1/2 man)
janitorial service

and i swung
the mop while
my father’s voice
reminded me that
all i had to do was
get through him

that he was going
to be the jab in
my face all night long

the closed doors
ready to greet

the rattle of
my ribcage

the pen that
runs out of

he reminded me
that when my favorite
song comes over the
speakers, his voice is
going to cut through
and say

We need a motherfuckin’
mop in the dill pickle aisle!

you want to
write, all you
got to do is get
through me

and one day
i just said,
fuck it

i went
after him

i carved him
every which way
with my pen

my cursive hand
adjusting to the
curvature of everything
he was

everything he

everything i
couldn’t say

everything he
couldn’t say

On that day,
i got past

but i keep
coming back

(c) 2016 Tony Robles

I want to write my city

I want to write my city
Write on the walls of my city
Write my city on the vault
Doors of my silence

Seal the envelope with the
Tongue of unsaid, unheard,
Unhealed words

I want to write my
City with the ink of my blood
The ash of my bones
The tears that have dried
Into an invisible song

I want to write my city
With street swept
Strokes on every corner,
Every alley, every crevice
And paved over dream

I want to write my city
The city that loves you and
Writes you off and loves you
again and writes you off over
and over again in the ledger
of losses

I want to write my city
In my black and Filipino blood
My Filipino and black blood
My adobo blood
My gumbo blood
My North Beach Blood
My Fillmore/Mission Street blood
My San Francisco blood

I want to write my city
A born and raised son of
San Francisco, written off,
Erased, deleted

I want to write my city
With the ink of my blood

It is time

©2015 Tony Robles

Poem to the Patron Saint of Procrastination

Saint Cain’t
The saint you pray
to when you

cain’t do it today
cain’t do it yesterday
cain’t get out of bed
cain’t bum a cigarette off
cain’t take no more of
the bullshit
cain’t find your shoes
cain’t find your courage
cain’t remember the last
time you smiled

the saint you pray
to when you cain’t
say cain’t no more

when the word
cain’t keeps repeating
in your ears like some
broken record that skps
over every good thing you
ever did

he’s the saint
you can go to when
everything’s got you
by the balls

he’s the saint that
kept everything you lost
like that bad cologne, that
cheap suit, assorted tics
and idio-motherfucking

he cain’t ignore
your words, your
pleas, even your

he just

(c) 2016 Tony Robles

Frisco Hearbeat


Kinda sounds like
A heartbeat

Kinda sounds
Like the drum that
Lives in the deepest
Deep of you

Kinda feels like
Memories moving
Across the skin

Last time I saw
You you fell into
A pothole

Done disappeared
Before our eyes

I remember you got
Shot 4 times and rose
From the dead lead
Obituary section that
Didn’t hold enough space
To tell your story

A veterano
A warrior
A lover

A poet whose
verses and curses
conduct harmonies
on both sides of the coin

a walking juke
box of Frisco feelings
and Frisco songs

Winner of the
Quadruple purple
Motherfuckin’ heart

Visible only to
Those who speak
With Frisco eyes

Who earned the right
To be kissed, embraced,
Caressed by Frisco

Who earned the right
To call it Frisco

So many Frisco

So many

So many


© 2016 Tony Robles

Mission Street Strut

At 16th and Mission

People sit on benches

Of metal, not wood


Riding those benches

Watching the world

Go by as the pawnshops

Disappear with the dreams

Stuffed inside them


Riding the benches,

Those ex-players











Cuban brothers

Whose tongues

Are paved as black

As the street under

Their feet climb

Palm trees


Looking out over




And the cops

Look up at the Cuban

Brother up in that palm

Tree and say, hey

Get down from there!


And the Cuban

Brother looks down

And smiles

A necklace of



I ain’t goin’

Nowhere, he



This is my home


And the cop

Takes out his

Nightstick, beating

The skin of the



And the Cuban

Brother laughs and

The tree shakes coconut

Bombs on the cop’s head


And that palm

Tree shakes, bends

A permanent sway

In the Mission Street



It moves like

A long legged

Lady down 16th and

Towards, 17th, 18th



The people on benches

Get up and dance,

Shaking the ground

Under their feet on

Mission Street


Where they



© 2014 Tony Robles


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