Hallways

Hallways
all

ways

the nod
twist
near miss
pause
transit
bandwidth
stretched
daydream
life span

the streets
the avenues
the spaces between
species
ears, eyes

all

ways

something
coming and going

wandering synapses
and lapses of
attention

hallways
the spring, summer
and fall
ways

and eye contact
is made but
not maintained

and the halls
are a one way
runway rerun
without refrain

where you remain

Hallways where
we once ran

we now
lean, slip
ponder

all ways

(c) 2018 Tony Robles

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Muni Love Story

I remember when I was
A kid on the Muni bus
With my grandma and
Grandpa

I loved when the windows
Got foggy and I’d play
Tick tac toe and draw
Stick people across the
Glass

The coolness felt
Good as I traced
Figures before wiping
Them away with my
Sleeve

And the figures never
Quite faded, a hint of
Their shapes remained
In the breath of fog while
The figures all around
Breathed and blinked and
Coughed and contemplated
Remnants of cold fronts

Leaving fingers
Numb

And as it penetrates
I find myself on the
49 bus

Coming into focus,
Two hands whose fingers
Are laced and woven like
A basket holding the heart
Of a song

Fingers, black
Stretching music’s marrow
Into blood

The foggy window
Thaws and love is
Here in spite of

Starts
Stops
Delays
Diversions
Hiccups
Uncovered coughs
Sneezes
Bumps

The lacing of fingers
Woven in a bond
Unbreakable

This black woman
And black man
On Muni

Unbroken

Faces facing each other
All that’s ahead
While remembering
What’s behind

I sit and trace
Figures on the cold
Bus window

Their love
Warms

© 2019 Tony Robles

Interpreter (For Weikuen Tang)

Clouds interpret
Sky interprets
Rain interprets
All that grows in
Silence

How does one
Interpret the
Breath of buffalo
Treading the mud?

We carry songs of
Pain that has
Fermented in a
Throat’s thirst

Flute sounds
Interpret the
Migration of birds

And it finds
You

And your wire glasses
Sit on the rim of
Your mind as you
Listen to the language
Of eyes

And the elder
Speaks her life
Through her eyes:

I came to the
US on May 28, 1988
30 ½ years ago

I had 4 kids
I brought them
All

I worked as a seamstress
For half a year without
Pay

I ironed clothes,
The prolonged standing
Made me knees swell

I cry a lot

I only eat a bit
Of steam rice, I
Have no appetite

I am not
literate

I passed the
Citizenship test
In English, I memorized
The questions

and she tells
her story like the
stitching of a cloth

undoing each
stitch, words
pouring from wounds
shut too long

and the interpreter
says that in China
some women do not
have a name

and the old
woman smiles
and writes her name:

Molau Leung

© 2019 Tony Robles

High Jump (For Johnny Mathis)

He grew up in the
same neighborhood
that my family was from

i heard stories
bits and pieces
about him

he used to sing here
he used to go to
high school there
he was a track star
he was discovered at
a local nighclub

and i heard his
timeless songs
on the radio and from
my father’s record player

the thing i noticed
was his hair, its
waves, the way it
was sculpted

how did he
do that?

and how did he
make his voice
go deep into the
pit of lonely and come
out on the other side
holding our tears fresh
as rain while the sun
snuck up and soaked
it all?

and while the neighborhood
saw the day as foggy
he saw it as misty

And a high jumper
of notes
leaps the depths
where words sit and
casts them as pearls
in a leaden sky

“On my own…”

making our low
notes bearable

in a foggy
place

he remade
Misty.

(c) 2018 Tony Robles

Blood Screening

Did I draw blood
Or did blood
Draw me?

The closest I ever
Came to drawing blood
Were paper cuts I acquired
While working as a file clerk
In the back room of a
University accounting office

Paper cuts not
Visible to the eye

Unwritten poems
in red ink,
undried

I got so many paper cuts
That those cuts were in
Alphabetical order and
Filed under the word: blood

But blood was always there
In the black faces
The brown faces
The yellow faces
And the sometimes white
Faces: Frisco faces

And when I said the word
“Blood”, it never
Sounded right

The word would sit
On my lips ready to
Jump, to bloom, to
Coagulate into something

But it sat

And others used it,
Said it

‘Sup blood?

‘what’s happening blood?”

And a Chinese guy
Once said to me:
Fuck you, blahhhhhhhddd!

And yesterday at the
Hospital I had
My blood screening

The phlebotomist poked
My arm trying to find
Blood

He finally found
It and the blood

And I thought
About those years
I couldn’t say the
Word “Blood” because
It didn’t sound real

The phlebotomist
(A Latino cat named Kurt)
Pulled the needle out of my
Arm, slapped a label on a
Vial holding my blood

Ok, you’re
Done he said

I rolled up
My sleeve

Take it easy, blood,
I said as I walked
Out

Some words
You just earn

© 2018 Tony Robles

Painted Ladies

The ladies I see

Are not painted

But have been

Stripped of much

 

Love

Trust

Rest

Dreams

 

Somehow they

Keep going forward

Presenting themselves

Like a harvest of hues

Despite the weather

 

And this lady

Carried the hurt

Down Mission Street

One Friday

 

Walking past the

Suitcases looking for

A place to unload what

Is left

 

Into her cellphone

She unloads:

 

Motherfucker, don’t

Give me that shit.  I told

You not to mess with me

 

And her blackness

Was dyed another shade

And walking towards her

Was an older black woman

Pushing a grocery basket

 

And the younger woman

Continued into her

Phone:

listen motherfucker…

 

And the older woman

Stopped, her head rising,

Her eyes following the

Younger woman

 

Excuse me sister,

She said

 

She walked over to

The younger woman

And gently took a hold

Of her arm

 

And words were

Said

 

And soon the

Younger woman and

Older woman were laughing

 

And the younger woman

Waved her hand as if touched

By the spirit and said, “Lord

Have mercy, I know that’s right”

 

And they parted

With the words,

God bless you sister

 

And Mission Street

Kept going:

 

The street sweeper

Kept sweeping

 

The paletero kept

Selling his ice cream

 

The palm trees

Kept being what

They were

 

And the older

Black woman pushed

Her empty grocery basket

 

 

© 2016 Tony Robles

Toothpick

Matchstick is no
Match for the
Spear that poke
Into spaces
Crevices

Gaps
Spaces
The spear
Is able to find

To poke like
A pool cue

Not talking
Shakes
Speare

The Filipinos, the
Blacks, the Chicanos
Knew how to use that
Spear

(And the Chinese in and out of Chinatown
that made it an art)

Stabbing at the
Obstructions that got
In the way of the
Wingspan of a smile

The coolness in
The way those
Toothpicks
Stuck out

In all
Angles

Pointing at
Possibilities

Stabbing at
The present
Upon the insistence
Of the past

Lying on
The tongue

Contemplating
A point to
Get across

© 2018 Tony Robles