415 Day

“We are people of Unity when it comes to the 415.” These are words of Frisco born and raised Rafael Picazo, a brother and son of the city’s Mission District on the front lines against the police killings plaguing our communities.  The sun rose with a big 415 on its face.  It was our breath, our tears, our fire, our memory; it was a hug from a homegirl or homeboy from the 415, or foe-one-five; perhaps someone that was once your foe who you now embrace in unity.  It was a day that we came together—black, brown, yellow, red, white and, in the words of Filipino Frisco born and bred Rudy Corpuz of United Playaz—candy stripe.  415 Day—a day of remembrance and honor–a day we honor our soul and spirit, which is the soul and spirit of the city.  We honor our throats, anointing the city, from Bernal to Mission to Lakeview to Bayview to the Sunset, North Beach, Chinatown, J-Town, the Richmond and every place in between with the cry that shakes the city’s foundations: Errrrrray!  A call that calls us back to our neighborhoods, our homes that were gutted by eviction; a call, a grito from deep within that expresses what we hold in for too long, looking for expression. A sound that says we ain’t forgot those who have been taken from us through police violence, economic violence and the betrayal of our communities by the city.  415 day, a day we come together to honor the black and brown heart of Frisco.  But we didn’t know where it would be held.  The day, 4-15-18 approached and all we knew is that it was happening, but where?  So the word went out: send a message to so and so to find out, or send so and so a text message.  I had to go.  I’ve been in the same area code my whole life. 415 ain’t just a number.  It’s in my DNA and in the DNA of the homeboys and homegirls that got the taste of Frisco on their tongues that spit truth and laughter and song.  415 is tattooed in my mind.  I got the word that it was going to be held at Crocker Amazon.  So I took the bus and the clouds were gray.  I walked up Amazon Street and thought that eventually some digital missionary  will say that the street was named in honor of  his company but f**k that, we got some straight up warriors in the Excelsior that ain’tgonna let that happen.  I arrived and I felt the black and brown of us.  I felt the lives in our skin come alive, every tattoo living with movement, a story—beautiful and tragic and alive, refusing to die, refusing to forget the city that forgot us, the city that we helped create.  So many faces, children, OG’s, dudes comin’ up in the world, looking for their place, their space and they find it in the beats that come from the heart and through the chest, sounds that move on turntables, turning like wheels, like seasons spent in this place in the heart we call the 415.  There were many I did not know, but the feeling was there, in the words of Frisco’s Max LeYoung, who worked tirelessly to support the Frisco Five Hunger Strikers:

 

415 day feels like a family reunion to me. There are many whom I only see once a year on that special day. For all the people who don’t know each other, there is a common and shared yet unspoken understanding that we come from the same place that we take so much pride in. We share a common culture which shapes who we are. 415 day to me, means community, family and culture.

 

415 Day, at Crocker Amazonwhere the green grass welcomed us, didn’t ask us for a reservation or ID; where the earth under our feet knew us, spoke to us: I remember you when you were a baby, when you took your first steps in the 415…and I remember your daddy and your daddy’s daddy and your mama and your mama’s mama—and the smell of the cooking that came out of the window: adobo, gumbo, menudo, sinigang, black eyed peas.Born and raised San Franciscan Rafael Picazo stood in the grass, big smile, feeling the importance of this day.  “The Native people of San Francisco have been losing spaces/parks to the newbies/tecies for years now, so 415 Day is day the Native people of San Francisco come together with love in their hearts to reclaiming our space/parks and enjoy each other’s company no matter what community you come from. We are people of Unity when it comes to the 415.”415 Day, in its third year, going strong.  A day to appreciate our presence, to play our music, to honor the mere tilt of our heads and gestures we wear proudly as the sons and daughters of Frisco.  We bring our neighborhoods with us.  We bring out dreams and dreams that never had a chance to breathe.  There’s room for us on this day, room at the park, room where we can still plant our dreams and breathe in the fragrance.  It was good not to see any mayoral candidates, case managers, landlords, fratboys, anyone on a scooter or those droves that open their mouths to speak, in an attempt to silence us, babbling about all the things they are entitled to yet, in the deluge of words, have nottruly earned a speaking part; those who would talk over our elders and claim Frisco as their own.  They have no idea what area code they are in.  415 Day, our day, as black and brown Frisco, of the Frisco heart.   As the homeboys and homegirls call out when they hear the word Frisco:  Errrraay!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Whose City? Our City!

City of fog
City of movement
City in labor pains that linger
In contradictive contractions
City of exiled throats holding notes
Of blaring fog horns
And bloated corks buoyed in currency
City of leaning flowers and pendulums
And clock faces and the aroma of epitaphs
Moving in all directions
City of no left turn no right turn no re turn
City where green means stop and red
Means go and yellow is a flame on the
Tip of your mind
City of baguettes and batons
City born and raised from the dead
City of vindictive Victorians and lorgnette eyes
City of flat screens and flat minds
And poets whose eyes create spheres within
The creases ready to blossom
City of gold tainted moths feasting on the
Tongue’s flesh
City where the humble are stuffed into thimbles
City where every feast is a plot luck
City of wine and sorrows

City of swine and marrow
City where the blade plays by ear
And ants migrate up the arm and into the mind
City of webs and spokes
And shopping carts whose wheels derail and drag
In the backdrop of rolling hills
City where Jesus is nailed to a sub minimum wage cross
And Indios carry the corpses of dreams
City of tendons and tensions stretched taut between
Bridges while ambulance chasers cross and crab nets
Sit patiently beneath the current
City of climate changes and mood swings and puzzles
With missing pieces
City of raised fists
And the falling tones of church bells
Disrobed
And stones thrown
Into the silence of water
City of shelters and seagulls flying
Off the edge
City of fog

Whose city?

Our city

© 2018 Tony Robles

 

City of St. Francis

The jowls of elders quiver in their livid

Vividness

Someone spat on the feet of

St. Francis

Quite a feat

One foot in front of the other

Walking into a telephone pole

Where wires are crossed in its

Ambition of a crucifixion

(Or to reenact one)

Let’s not forget

This is the sale of the century

Where every scheme is anointed in

Holy bath water minus the halo

And the dreams of those off course

Are docked and rusted and the blood

Is tainted on a loose stool bolted

With everywhere and no place to go

And drinks are on the house

Only there’s no house

High blood pleasure and

Smelling salts to preserve

The highs and lows

Somebody tell St. Francis to get

His shit together

The bullet hole riddles

Are where time made its mark

I’ll light a candle for you

While I’m off the grid

Without a pot to rent in

And the sidewalks get a nice

Mop and glow spit shine job

My yoga mat is a parking ticket,

Or a citation for public intoxication

No angels to piss on

The flames

Just the edges

Of hymnals

Cutting into the prints

Of fingers cut off at

The joints and by the

Way they just legalized

The aroma of pot

And my bones are ready

To go underground

At any time

And someone spat on the

Feet of St. Francis

 

Don’t forget to leave

A tip

 

 

© 2018 Tony Robles

415 Day

There’s no other area code

For me to be

I ain’t got nothin’ against

The 650,707,831

But they ain’t got nothin’

On the 415

They say that age is just

A number but 415 ain’t

Just a number

Just go to the highest peak

In the city and yell out:  415!

And an echo will come back: ERRRRRRRAY!!!

(Followed by: Where you at?)

Now me, I’m 53 going on 415, and

My father is still alive, ex-gangster from

Fillmore and I got uncles that are in the

415 section of heaven which is

A Crocker Amazon in the sky

Where online purchases do not

Exist and congas provide rhythms and

Beats pulse through

The veins of leaves still

Thirsty for Frisco songs

It’s good to see you

Skin covered in 415 memories

Tongue that still tastes 415

Different varieties of everything

And the 415 fog sits in the

Lungs and we exhale our 415

Lives, just being ourselves

And the 415 grass grows under

Our feet

And some can’t feel that grass

But see it in their minds,

Especially when you been locked

Up 415 times, so many times

And so many 415 faces of all

Races and persuasions

You can’t have 415 without black and brown

And some in the 415 moved to other codes

Seeking out more neutral colors or

Because they couldn’t afford the rent

But you can’t hide the 415

With air freshener

Hair coloring

Deodorant

A new car

A new computer

Or a new old lady

‘cause you can’t wash the 415

Out of your skin

Coming together, the 415

On 415 day, which is

Every day

The 415 changes but

It’s still the 415

And some of us are scattered

Like Debra, one of the finest

Sisters I ever seen livin’

Down in Texas

One of the finest of the 415

And don’t forget Charlie Mack

Out in Sac and Jimmy in Honolulu

And Cousin Leslie in New Jersey

And there’s nothing I wouldn’t give

To hear my grandfather’s voice again

Dialing from a rotary 415 telephone

Whose number was: SKYLINE 1-3046

And speak into the receiver: How’s my boy?

And it’s the 415

Foe One five

Ex-foes coming together

In 415 love

The rain falling on our 415 skin

At Crocker Amazon Park

 

It can’t be

Washed out

 

 

© 2018 Tony Robles

 

 

Stuck in Reverse

Some are just stuck
In reverse as the
Tides go in either
Direction

Some are stuck
In an elevator
Going down no
Matter how much
They hit the “up”
Button

Some have minds
Stuck to windows
Like snails stuck to
The sidewalk
The grassy blade

Some hit the wrong
Button
Walk backwards
Are not on the
Same page because
The parchment leaves
Them parched

Some shift gears
Between the ears
Voices collecting in
The lobes like low
Hanging fruit devoured
By the jaws of chance

Some are
An incarnation
Rather than a
Carnation

They are the
Obstruction in
The throat, the sleep
In the eyes, the fly
That landed on your
Food

Some are just
At the wrong place
At the wrong time

Some are
Just stuck
In reverse

While the world
Goes the other way

© 2017 Tony Robles

A Different Kind of Cold Up in Here

That’s what the
Older black man
Said as we sat
Together

Everything
Was cold

Even our
Dreams

Another black
Man snored while
Standing

As if walking
A tight wire of a
Dream frozen

(or on water)

Waiting on a
Cold bench

It’s a different
Kind of cold up
In here

An old white
Man moaned
With a broken
Hip at the end
Of the bench

The cops beat
Me, I’m 64 years
Old, he said

We’re you
Drinking, old man?
Asked another guy

I don’t
Remember

Everybody
Laughed

And we sat in
Our orange
Outfits

And the air in
Our lungs was
Cold

And there we
Were attempting
To warm ourselves

Man, I just turned
31 years old, a guy
Said while holding a
Bag of chopped carrots
That came in a plastic
Lunch sack

Happy birthday
Someone
Said

“Now, maybe
You can use those
Carrots to make
You a carrot cake”

More
Laughter

And I sat
On that
Cold bench

2 flies buzzing
Over my
Head

It’s a different
Kind of cold
Up in
Here

© 2016 Tony Robles

Frisco Graduation

Standing in line at an elementary school graduation I look at the colors surrounding me.  The cars rolling by with loud colors and the lyrics of lives lived or once lived blaring from car speakers announcing their presence while the sky above whispers in its ever present blue; trees that have stood for generations show their skin and limbs proudly like the survivors they are.  The others in line are mostly down home folk, Frisco natives or folks that have been in the city for generations, running in all directions, crossing streets, trying to make it before the light turns red, scurrying to get a place in line that is snaking the length of the street.  The parents and relatives arrive with stuffed animals and balloons to show their love for their kids and the achievement of education.  Pictures are taken and folks are excited and proud as the colorful balloons bobbing and hovering above their heads.

Women–mothers and grandmothers and aunties sprout up all over—all proud and full of smiles.  Some look like floats, big boned, big cheeked—outfitted in tight clothing that is like another skin, balancing on heels and shoes that glitter in the early evening.  Those mothers, whose lips are thick with sheen gleaned from the glint of sun that rests on the troubled faces of skillets, pots and pans; whose smear of kisses cover a child’s face and never comes out.  Those women whose bodies are filled with dreams and screams and laughter and tears and stories; those women waiting in line, waiting for their children to walk across that stage; those women whose voices hit the air and sing out, whose laughter cracks through the clouds and make the rain fall in every color.   With women like these, no rainbow is needed because the rainbow is wrapped around them and expands with their breath, laughter, dreams; giving birth to more breath, more laughter, more dreams.

I can’t help but look at the youngsters ready to graduate from Elementary school and wonder what pictures, poems and stories await them.  I see all the children, all colors and backgrounds and voices.  I think about my own elementary school graduation.  I was a skinny little boy who’d broken his leg in a car accident.  I was hobbling around on crutches.  I remember those days in the city but those days are like broken reflections shed from the skin of a mirror.  I see the generations pass by me, faster and faster, and I look at the trees lining the street in silent celebration.  I see little boys dressed like men, neckties, slacks, hair greased sideways and upward and forward.  The little boys run about and the little girls are dressed like their mothers.  And the kids are on the stage in caps and gowns.  And the kids have names like Tiburcio, Akil, Octavio, Fazon, Valeria, Maifa, Maricruz and other names that are poems waiting to be born and sung into the San Francisco air.

The theater is packed and the kids give speeches that speak of the struggle of their parents to raise them.  Some spoke of their immigrant families and told their stories in English and Spanish, their voices rising like trees into the expanding sky.  And as each child’s name was called to accept their graduation certificates, the mothers, uncles, grandparents, brothers and sisters released their own pent up dreams, rising from seats, not holding back.  In a chorus of affirming claps and declarations of pride and calling out of names that would be the envy of any church or arena, those parents and friends showed who they were—down home folks with booming voices and emotion that pour freely.  Their voices, their presence, their children are the meaning of San Francisco.  Their faces are the color of flowers that need to stay here.  Will these children be here, will they grow up here?  Or will they be evicted from the landscape in which they give color.  Will their faces be part of the mural that tells the story of our city or will there not be a place for murals anymore?