The People's Poet Tony Robles–SF Art commission award winning Author of cool don't live here no more and fingerprints of a hunger strike

Day off


Today is my day off. I took a walk to the store earlier. In the parking lot is a man i see often, wearing a very wide brimmed hat, putting shopping carts in nice rows along the side of the market. I waved to him and he waved back. He could have easily been a farmer, someone close to the earth, someone who has spoken to the earth with his hands and whose heart is stained with it. My father told me that everyone has a story, that you never know who it is you are speaking to. I met another man at the same market a few weeks back, a security guard like me. There’s something about seeing another person in a security guard uniform, some kind of brotherhood that emerges in the knowledge and recognition that we are both covered in stupid uniforms made of the flimsiest and most uncomfortable (and possibly flammable) material available. He was an older Filipino man. He inspired this poem:

The Builder of Roads & Bridges from Manila
By Tony Robles

I knew I’d like
Him when I first
Saw him standing
Guard at a supermarket

His uniform included a
Jacket with a shoulder
Patch showing an
Eagle with spread wings

Maybe it was the
Way he nodded or
Maybe it was the way
He stood

I called him manong
And he smiled and asked
Me if I was Filipino and
I said yes, that I was
Born in San Francisco

And he told me
He was from Manila and
That he had been in the
US for 5 years

And I told him
That my grandfather
Came to the US in the
1920’s and was
born in 1906

he laughed and said
that was a long time
ago and he told me
that back home in Manila
he was a district engineer

he worked on bridges
and roads and inspected
buildings for safety

he’s working as a security
guard right now to save
money to go back home

and I mentioned the typhoon
that just hit Manila and
he got very quiet

we stood there
in front of the supermarket
underneath the white lights

I finally had
To go and I told
Him I’d see him again

Maybe he’ll run
Into another Filipino
And tell how he constructed
Bridges back home

Maybe he’ll
Mention the one
He built


© 2009 Tony Robles