It was code
Before the
Coders blew in

And caught a code
And sneezed over
The city
Strands of
Digital tinsel

So shiny
So bright

It was code
That cannot
Be decoded

Nor can it be
Removed by any
Number of anorexic
Keys meant to pick
The locks of our homes

It was the code
That were our mother’s
Recipes that were too
Precious for paper

Or digital fingers

Code that can’t
Be bought, sold or

No matter how
Much snow is
Planted on our

Or crucifixions
By landlords decreed
By greed

It’s our


(C) 2016 Tony Robles

Fillmore Born, Still Here

Saw this cat named Terry on the bus the other day.  Some guys are like a breath of fresh air.  Not Terry.  He’s a breath of cologne.  I don’t wear cologne but there’s something about Terry’s cologne.  It’s a subtle scent that doesn’t overpower you.  You just know it’s there.  He wears these velvet jogging suits that are smooth and loose.  That’s Terry, smooth and loose.  We ran into each other on the #5 Fulton heading downtown.  Riding the #5 can be depressing.  All those faces, that twisted mass of tech-washed gentrification that has overrun the city of my birth.  I can barely stand it, that sense of entitlement of the techies, the coffee sippers—those financial sector technocrats whose presence radiates so much death of sprit. I try not to look but they’re all over the place so I close my eyes.


He got on board on Fillmore Street.  The door opened and that cologne hit me.  I looked up. “Hey Anthony” a voice called out.  I was drawn in by his gaze.  His eyes are somewhat unfocused yet radiate a smile contrived only of an honesty of the moment.  “What’s happening, Terry?” I said.  Terry moves a bit unsteadily, having been in a car accident years ago.  Sometimes when talking, his attention drops off.  Perhaps it is the area of lost consciousness that lands like a cloud, those precious moments when he slips into the subconscious street of his mind, where words and songs echo to the surface.  Terry—Fillmore-born, still here.  We got off downtown. We walked a couple blocks to Market Street.  I remembered the way he walked from when I first met him.  I was a vocational rehabilitation counselor for an employment training program run by a local non-profit organization.  Most of the participants in the program had developmental disabilities.  The training facility was an assembly center where the workers sorted, counted, weighed and packed mosaic tiles for shipping to retail outlets.  My job was to supervise the workers, which is always uncomfortable because I see myself as a worker and not a supervisor.


I hit it off with Terry.  We’d laugh and he’d sit and count those tiles like they were poker chips.  But he would sometimes lose count and have to start over again.  His eyes would drift to the women in the program.  He liked talking to the girls, always complimenting them on what they were wearing.  I’d say, “Hey Terry, you can’t do that.  Ain’t you ever heard of sexual harassment?”  Terry’s gaze would drift away for a few seconds.  “You’re a motherfuckin’ killjoy” he’d answer, smiling.  “You’re right about that” I’d answer.


We walked to Market Street. Terry has moved on to a profession better suited to his passion.  He sells mix CD’s.  Five bucks a pop.  He pulls out a small binder filled with CD’s in transparent sleeves.  He asks me what I like.  I ask him what he has.  Fast jams or slow jams, whatever you want, he tells me.  I tell him to set me up with slow jams.  He pulled a CD out of its sleeve.  He had a playlist to go with it, not digitized and impersonal but handwritten on good, old-fashioned lined paper:


              “Ole School Mixed Slow Ballads”

  1. Sho’ Nuff must be love—Heatwave
  2. Do Me Baby—Prince
  3. I’ll be there—Jackson 5
  4. Hanging Downtown—Cameo
  5. Got to Be there—Jackson 5
  6. Do Me—Rick James
  7. Never Can Say Goodbye—Jackson 5
  8. Between the Sheets—Isley Brothers
  9. What’s your sign—Danny Pearson
  10. Natural High—Bloodstone
  11. Oh Honey—Delegation
  12. Be My girl—Dramatics
  13. What’s come over me—Blue Magic
  14. Sparkle (in your eye)—Cameo
  15. Fell for you—Dramatics
  16. Didn’t I blow your mind this time—Delfonics


We parted ways.  I had my mix CD.  It sat in my bag a couple of days.  Terry called me and asked me what I thought of the CD and I told him that I hadn’t listened yet but would soon.  He called again and again I told him I’d listen as soon as I could.  I finally found a perfect time to listen—at work.  I popped in that CD and let it play. Now, I don’t know how it happened but I got mellow and loose and hell if I didn’t look at myself and see that I was wearing a velvet jogging suit.  And that smell, is it cologne?  Damn, Terry got me again.  How am I going to get any work done today?


Hey Terry, thanks for the music, thanks for being here.  I never knew a jogging suit could fit so well.  Thanks.




San Francisco, We can’t afford you

We can’t afford

can’t afford the
tremors of your
half smiles

can’t afford your
see saws weighed
down with quaint

can’t afford your seismic
under the table

Can’t afford
Your red carpet

can’t afford your
ruins hidden under
the robes of judges

can’t afford the half
moon creases under
the eyes of elders while
vultures pick the lint from
their pockets

Can’t afford to
Be force fed fog
Dragged like a dead
Body and laced with
Bitter pills

can’t afford the
leeches living rent
free on our skin

can’t afford the hiked
up skirt of real estate

can’t afford the murals
plucked from our

cant’ afford
police bullets dipped
in blood of black
and brown

can’t afford your scentless
sanitized sense of

Can’t afford
Tech antennas
Transmitting snow

can’t afford your
cathedrals of one
way mirrors

can’t afford the bad
checks written on
our backs

can’t afford the toxic
air breathed thru

can’t afford the speculation
of long distance lullabyes
wagering the day and
hour of our death

can’t afford eyes
prying open the doors
of memory without
permission, without
thank you

City of
St. Francis

we can’t
afford your


(c) 2016 Tony Robles

Friscopino II

Friscopino is a pot
Of mispronounced
Names that go
Undigested, burning
In our ears and throat

Friscopino is Filipino
From SF

Filipino and black
Black and Filipino
Filipino and Mexican
Mexican and Filipino
Filipino and Italian
Italian and Filipino
Filipino and Chinese
Chinese and Filipino
Filipino and native
Native and Filipino

And other mixtures
In our Lola’s pot
That gave birth to
What is Friscopino

Friscopino is my
Veins clogged with
Diniguan shadows
That live in the pores

Friscopino is never
Forgetting where you
Came from

Friscopino is
Fish bones in my
Throat and socks
That smell like adobo

Friscopino is the
Shame we have in
The parts of us that
Are the most beautiful

Friscopino is the
Black in us that
Can’t be denied

Friscopino is bad
And loud with a
Heart too big for
The chest

Friscopino is a
Tattoo that covers
Our pain

Friscopino is the
Proud lechon skin
That covers our

Is Filipino From

And everything
That comes with

(C). Tony Robles 2016


She was a citizen

Of my



Coagulating juxtapositions

Of hierarchal positions

Drifting to the currents

And whims of currency


She was the

Marrow of mind

tremor of nerves

unsnappable synapse

Of bone that refused to

Bend in certain matters

Of skin


Through the parceled

Spheres of ghetto eyes

I’d look at her

In not the linear but in an

Eyes wide expanse of dream

Of what I claimed to be


Half Filipino

Blood of black and brown,

Tongue sliced, dripping

Silence of words I couldn’t

Form from a language pried

From throat like a rotten tooth


And she was a

Citizen of my



From a country

I’d claimed yet

Never set foot on


And she was fire

And flame and



Swimming into a cusp

Of consonants that

Looped around my



A frontal feast

A verbiage of verbs

A succulent garden

Of invectives


She moved

Across the boundaries

Of body and heart with

The proper documentation


And in the widening

Space between us

Was the sum of pawnshop

Skin anchored by 500.00



And the ghetto smell

Attached to my skin

Became too much to bear


And when she

Freed herself of the

Stench that was me


She became

What she



A citizen

Of America


(drunk on America)


The day the word




Her lips and down the

Side of her chin


A spewing of

Molecules in

A mouth to air reaction

Of broken chains










© 2016 Tony Robles



Black Laughter

So much black
Laughter on those
Corners, in those places
That slide over our eyes

So much laughter
In cans destined
For the recycle bin

So much black
Laughter that I
Cannot hear

It used to be
100% black laughter
But now it’s down to
About 3% laughter

(That is, if you trust those
who keep count of
Those who count)

it used to sit and
wait like coals in
a barbecue pit and
when it hit the air
you could feel it,
could taste it everywhere

I used to hear it
Clearly like popcorn
Popping at the movie

With all that
Butter melting
Warm on your

Passed from
Hand to hand
And washed down
With something cool
While the screen told
Us what life was
Supposed to be

So much black laughter
Trapped, contained
And hidden from our

The sudden burst of
Black laughter has more
Meaning than the 4th of
Motherfuckin’ July

The city without black
Laughter is like the sun
Turning its back on us

The city without black
Laughter is a city that
Doesn’t know how to

So much black
Laughter on those

In those places
Nearest to
My heart

So much
Laughter I
Can’t hear

© 2016 Tony Robles


I am friscopino
Filipino born and
bred in Frisco

The saltwater of
SF Bay runs through
my veins, the city
fog seeps out of my nose
like the heavy breath of

I’m the hidden member
of the band whose fingerprints
stained the piano keys with a
mixture of ash, sweat, spit
tae, tears

I am Friscopino
my vocabulary of Filipino
words limited to pancit,
adobo, lumpia and putang
ina mo

friscopino with the
colors of dried tears
of my lola in my pores
that wash over me like
an unexpected rain

friscopino, a member of
the foghorn band whose
moans wake the city from
its coma-like hibernation

I am friscopino, dancing
across every inch of this
dance floor called frisco

dancing through kicks
and screams and scemes
and unfulfilled dreams

i am friscopino
my braids weave the story
of my hands like thick

grab on
to it

let it pull
you up

In an incantation
That is
Richmond, Sunset
sun up and sun down
and everywhere the
light’s ray’s lick

Filipino born
and bred in


(c) 2016


the city changes its
face, its color
its prints of finger
tongue and heart

the city changes its
mind like a mime
changes his shoes

the city changes
its flavor at
mid swallow

the city changes
its heart like a
pair of socks

the city changes and
rearranges in the
bargain basement
bazaar where memories
are sold on a plate of blue

the city changes but
the hills remain, conforming
to the curvature of amplitudes
and attitudes in a constant
orbit around itself

the city changes like
a lover who slept with
you and forgot your name

the city changes
like a bus transfer, a
dollar bill, a roll of
toilet paper

the city changes like
a sheet in the aftermath
of love ’em and leave ’em

the city changes like
leaves that never leave
yet leave nothing but
memories it no longer

the city changes
like a box of

collecting our

(c) 2016 Tony Robles

Sleeping Car

The silences gnaw
At my side

In the still air
Still moist
Still molecular
Ailes of silence
Of a sleeping car

A car
Baring eyes
That bite

Unblinking oasis of
Glances universal

Stareful in

The blood barely
Moves through me
At the curtain

As silence
Stabs its stain
Across my flesh

I open
My eyes awake


In a

© 2016 Tony Robles

Rest in Place

the city
a place where
thank you is a
rose that stinks

where the welcome
mat is upside down
and bats hang
downside up

where rest in
peace pipes are
clogged with grease
from a thousand palms

where old men
are blissfully shot
through the head

where boys named
Adam snatch the
golden apple while
their navels hide tainted

the city that
died a thousand
deaths caught in
the flimsy film of water

on the
room floor

where the

kindles a

(c) 2016 Tony Robles

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