I keep going to Peep’s Coffee
The coffee isn’t great
But the place has been
A has-been place where
It still happens and once I killed
A roach there by accident
And the coffee is constant in
Its consistency ranging from
Watery to a semi-syrupy serum
that takes care of what ails you

A tight budget keeps
Me coming and I don’t
Got a plot to piss in but
The coffee is only 75 cents
A cup

On the wall is a
Calendar stained with a
Year that passed away many
A fuckin’ moon ago and the
Coffee keeps coming, keeps
Pouring, sometimes bitter,
Sometimes better with grounds
Floating, never weak

And the conversation is a
Tangle of stops, stutters,
Guttural flutters, laughs
Curses and good natured

“Say man, this
Some nasty ass

What you call it?

It’s called arabaca-dabra

And a big
Swig is taken

“Taste more like

Laughter, wet with
Words down the wrong
Pipe, forgotten and
Coughed up

And the guy at the
Counter of Peep’s coffee,
A Chinese guy who makes
More than coffee replied,

“I piss on your grits”


and the grits
are served up in the
grittiest of ways
the way it should

Peep’s coffee

A unique

© 2018 Tony Robles





the nod
near miss
life span

the streets
the avenues
the spaces between
ears, eyes



coming and going

wandering synapses
and lapses of

the spring, summer
and fall

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

all ways

(c) 2018 Tony Robles

Muni Love Story

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

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

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

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

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

Uncovered coughs

The lacing of fingers
Woven in a bond

This black woman
And black man
On Muni


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

© 2019 Tony Robles

Interpreter (For Weikuen Tang)

Clouds interpret
Sky interprets
Rain interprets
All that grows in

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

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

I worked as a seamstress
For half a year without

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

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

he remade

(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,

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

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

Some words
You just earn

© 2018 Tony Robles

Painted Ladies

The ladies I see

Are not painted

But have been

Stripped of much







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


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



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