Mike's on Main

A man sits at the
Counter of this
Establishment

A building with a brick
Façade with the words
“Coca Cola” painted on
From years past

Painted before we were
Told to have a coke and
A smile

Or that it was
The real thing

On Main
A mainstay
A grilled cheese slice
Of yesterday’s
Hits on parade with
Ice cream float dreams

The young waiter in the
Soda jerk hat, the waitress
In the poodle skirt

And a jukebox that hasn’t
Conceded the deaths of
Elvis, Buddy Holly, Ricky
Nelson, Chuck Berry Fats
Domino, Aretha and others

And a man sits at the
Counter, wearing a tan jacket
Looking like every man in a
Nation of counters and
Counterfeiters and marble
Counter tops and those who
Wear tie dyed counter culture
Stretch marks with pride

At the counter near the neon
Sign and the milkshake machines,
The light hits at a certain angle
At a certain part of the day

And it falls on the
Man’s shoulder
In the form of a rainbow

He sits and eats his burger
Not knowing the visitor that
Has landed on his shoulder

A rainbow has come to
Mean many things

A rainbow to most
People is a thing of
Beauty

I consider myself lucky
To have gotten a glimpse
Of it over my burger and
Fries

At Mike’s on Main

© 2020 Tony Robles

What's with this Dishwasher, Chico?

Back in the dish room
back washing dishes
back slipping on a
rubber glove

making suds

After 30 some years
I’m back washing dishes

Along the way were other
dish rooms in the form of
office work, radio DJ, office
clerk, security guard, social
justice activist and a few
other things

i was younger and
didn’t know who i was

and in those jobs
those bumps in the road
my co-workers and bosses
tried to tell me who i was

and i often believed them

but then you find out
over time (After working
overtime) who you are

and you realize what
they told you wasn’t shit

and now in
the dishroom
30 years later I’m
busting suds while the
radio plays those soul songs
that touched me when nothing
else did

i know who i am

(Those songs tried to tell me back then)

a line from a great
movie went like this:

“Don’t call me no fucking
dishwasher or I’ll kick your
monkey ass”

I write you this,
knowing who i am and
hoping you know who
you are

best
of luck

I gotta run

I got dishes
to wash

and a few
waves to make

(c) 2020 Tony Robles

Two Piece Dark

There I am working the deli
counter at Shingles Supermarket
serving fried chicken, mashed
potatoes, green beans, cobbler

Shingles is not named after that
rather serious physical malady
but in honor of the fact that the
owner’s father had been a roofer
and had quite the way with shingles

A guy with a “Trump 2020”
cap approaches the counter

with my 2 index fingers i pull
both corners of my mouth wide,
forming a rather chickenshit
smile

How may i help you?
I ask

The man looks, pauses,
then says, “I’ll have a dark
snack”

“Two piece dark”

I ask him to
repeat

I want dark
he said

I looked at him
thinking, with that hat,
are you sure you don’t want
white meat?

I think of my uncle who
walked into a restaurant years
ago to order some fried
chicken

The attractive black woman
behind the counter asked, do
you want white meat or dark?

My uncle gave her the most
seductive look I’d ever seen
up to that point and said:

“Dark, baby”

I look at the man and his
Trump 2020 hat and with my
own 2020 vision gave him two
pieces of dark meat

and a chickenshit smile
on the side

He returns a smile of
his own

2 piece dark

(c) 2020 Tony Robles

In Defense of Cursive Writing

A quiver of the
quill, in air both
warm and chill

loops, curls
dots, lines
slanting forwards
backwards

It’s in the wrist
even at rest
where blood pours
in cursive
inclusive
on the page

And some of us have
tongues that speak
think in cursive,
sing in cursive

Make love in cursive
with all the wiggles
and curls that coil
around the imagination

My grandmother wrote
in cursive

Something regal in
the loops, the shapes
of the letters as she moved
across the page

She even wrote in shorthand

The lines, the shapes
of the letters, words moving
with the grace of a race horse
or a swan’s stillness

It’s no curse

Writing in cursive

(c) 2020 Tony Robles

World Class

i was born in a
world class city

city of fog
hills, French bread,
bridges

a breadth of
broad shoulders,
minds

Where languages
are a breath apart
ideas impart

i was born in a
world class city

a city of broken
peace of mind,
memory reflected
in the promise of
broken mirrors

where thank you
is now fuck you

i left a world class
city for a small
town

Thank you, they say

God bless, they say

They sometimes call
me “Hon” for no
particular reason

Which is all
the reason that
is needed

and i was
born in a world
class city

(c) 2020 Tony Robles

Seed

A woman occupies
the title “Mother”

The world’s
birthmark
of maiden and
martyr

This woman,
my mother
stitches, weaves a
blanket of every color

A pattern across
sky, ground, connecting
me to her, her to me

And stitches cross flesh
and blood crosses blood
and people cross rivers,
borders

A fire is spreading
and a new undeclared
war has been declared
in the parched soil
quenched
by martyr’s blood

This is a seed stitch,
my mother explains

A thick stich
cutting across
colors blending
as wind and mountain
clash

and conflicts
brew

This blanket will
have a border, my
mother says

She plants seeds
stitch by stich

Her warmth,
a mother’s warmth

has no
border

(c) 2019 Tony Robles

The Yawnbroker

Drowsiness plagues me.  It comes when alertness–paying keen attention to detail–or when focus requires my eyelids to recede in the upward position.  This state often appears when someone is explaining something supposedly simple, like the owner’s manual of a car or piece of furniture that one must assemble on his or her own.  A writer once declared that “Men Explain things to me”, but I have found that when an explanation is imparted to me on whatever subject, it tends to put me to sleep—whether it is delivered by a woman, man, or some combination of the two.  Humans explain things to me and I tend to yawn with the voraciousness of a multicolored baboon in a large city zoo, who, upon baring its fangs, slips into that temporary and temporal haven known as the land of nod.  My stepfather told me years ago that boredom is a luxury.  But I find myself floating and meandering in the straits of the boring sea where, oftentimes, it is quite literally impossible to locate-by chance or otherwise—an urchin, clam or starfish to spark my interest.  But this didn’t happen overnight or last week.  My mind tends to drift.  This was before the acronym A.D.D. became vogue.  And there was a remedy for this dreamy condition utilized by fathers such as mine—of a particular generation—who prescribed F.I.A, a sort of D.D.T for A.D.D.  

F.I.A.—a simple acronym with an equally simple translation:  Foot in ass.  The main culprit of my drowsiness has been other people.  People are sleep-inducing.  However, one is forced to endure their conversations and observances—which possess the keenness of a banana peel—that are, at best, surface snippets of dollar store depth; generic utterances washed down with canned laughter whose expiration date expired long ago.

People talk, oftentimes with no sense of when to end a conversation or if they are putting the other person to sleep.  I recall as a child becoming drowsy in church.  My parents attended a church in Central Florida.  The pastor was animated yet I had a hard time paying attention.  Perhaps I thought it was because church was for old people on the way out, hanging onto every word scoring heaven points the way many people acquire frequent flyer points.  Once a visiting pastor came and delivered a sermon on the Gideon Bible.  He was rather dull but he had a funny way of talking, possessing kind of a vocal tick that tickled my church funny bone.  I remember 8 my hand over my mouth in an attempt to suppress my laughter.  It finally erupted when I lifted my head upwards, towards the heavens and let out a very satisfying laugh: HA HA HA HA!  My mother looked at me in shock.  “Stop doing that!” she scolded.  I sat with my head down.  I still wasn’t convinced that a kid like me needed church but then I found out that a kid from the neighborhood got hit on his bike at an intersection and died.  I remember not being so drowsy when I learned what happened. 

In my sleep induced state I often visualize my brain transforming into the likeness of a slug.  My old comedian friend had a name for people he thought were on the lower end of the brainpower spectrum: slothbrain.  In my case, I believe that a comparison with a slug is more appropriate; a slug is slow and oozes, slogs across many types of terrain on its drawn out journey.  My brain is smudged with slug jelly and my only refuge is slipping into sleep when encountered with the yawnbroker of which there are plenty.

I recall the first night on a new job some years ago.  I reported to the site supervisor at an apartment complex where I was hired as a security officer.  It was there that I met “Howell” in the guard office.  He issued me a walkie-talkie and laid out a map of the property that I would patrol.  He explained the location of parking lots and garages, the different driveways and thoroughfares, trash compactor locations, the clubhouse location and the difference between egress and ingress which I confused with egret, which he quickly clarified after informing me that he had studied ornithology in school and could loan me a book on different species of egret and that I would not, he assured me, regret upon scanning its pages.  He spoke in a slow monotone, which, coupled with the florescent glare of the overhead lights, caused me to become drowsy. 

My mind, the slug, was slowly moving away from the topic at hand.  I remained awake despite Howell’s monotonous dribble that was interrupted when he took an occasional bite of a hot dog.  However, I came close to drifting into sleep once or twice.  I was saved by a trio of powerful images close by on the window sill.  On it stood 3 plastic figures: A spaceman, a brontosaurus and Jesus.  As sleep seemed to creep up I looked at the Jesus figurine that seemed to say, stay awake my son.  The spaceman and brontosaurus affirmed with amen in unison. This was before “stay woke” became a catch phrase.  I stayed awake in the wake of a multitude of yawns I was not able to suppress.

© 2020 Tony Robles