The City That Could Have Been

All those folks that
stayed, who didn’t go
to school out of state,
didn’t leave home in
search of something

all those folks who
couldn’t leave the
smell of their kitchen

the smell of the cupboard
the smell of garlic in grandma’s
pores and the smell of her
medicine as she clung to our
arms to steady herself

all those born and raised
San Franciscans who couldn’t
wouldn’t leave their lives,
their people behind

all those born and raised
San Franciscans who wanted
to be regular folks with
regular jobs

they didn’t want
too much, just some
friends, some music,
some good food, some
soul, some style

all the folks that
were born here
and stayed

didn’t want to be
too clean, too successful

just wanted to be
themselves, be true to
the skin that covered
their bones

and some showed their
devotion to their city by
burning its name into
their skin

Didn’t need no PHD,
City College was
good enough

A little coffee
in a styrofoam cup
was good enough

and the city was
filled with many
who could have been


etc etc…

The city that
could have

the city that
was and still is
to those that remain

the city that was
the city before
the artisans came

with their
artisan peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches,
and artisan cupcakes

and artisan
toilet paper to
wipe their apps

(c) 2015 Tony Robles


Frisco Offal

Frisco Offal
By Tony Robles

Abridged daughters, sons
Misters, miss…and misses

Never birthing the
Pages with processions of
Starting with S and
ending with F and dancing in
The pores of our streets

Never skipped like stones cutting
Across the chase of water to get
To the other side when 2 bridges
Weren’t enough

Shunted, stunted
Poems murals pictures
Lyrics stopped at midstream
In birth canal alleys where
We grew up, on streets we
Never left behind

Raised on innards and knowing
The masquerade ritual of bread
Stuffed with broken lead

Our voices an unclaimed
Chorus lined in an epitaph of
Trees, shorn of skin, hacked at
The root and taken down in the
Shrill shadow of a hollow octave

And the butcher shops
Have closed while new
Butchers hone their wares
serving up the dictum of
Official offal

Hometown of missing parts
In kitchen pots
Kept silent
Eyes, ears,
Tongues mouths
Lips etc.


In a shorn sum of

© 2015 Tony Robles

Thank God

I can’t say that
I’m religious except
For an occasional utterance
Of “Thank God” when
I’ve sidestepped trouble
And avoided a potential

I once drove through
The thick fog near
Monterey and, had I not
Glanced to my right at just
The right time, would have
Ended up in the ocean

Thank God

And I went to church
And the minister spoke about
The last days when catastrophes
Would plague the planet and
People would be snatched up into
Heaven and into the arms of the lord

And I went to Catholic churches
With my grandmother as a kid
And I was a restless, fidgety
Pain in the ass

And grandma would look at me
Real hard and I would think that
If I didn’t get it together, Jesus himself
Would come off that cross near the
Stained glass windows, walk over
And choke the hell out of me

And I haven’t been to church too
Often since then and I know that
Grandma would be less than happy
About that

But she’d be happy
To know that I haven’t
Driven off a cliff (not yet)

And that someone is
Keeping an eye out
For me

Just like
She used
To tell me


© 2015 Tony Robles

The San Francisco Mint

I walk down Powell
Street and see

2 guys, one
silver, the other

Maybe they broke
into a spray paint
factory and went

or maybe they were
born in a silver
and goldmine, who

Perhaps it is a
pigment of my

i grew up with
lots of color, a
Melanin menagerie
That was sometimes

my father dressed
in bright colors, so
bright that you’d mistake
him for being a singer in
an R & B group
(or a piece of holiday candy)

And at school there
was color in the
meat that covered
our bones

black, red, brown,
yellow, white and
combinations thereof
mixed and simmering
in mama’s pot at home

And our blood was
in those pots, mixed
with our memory

we sat at the table
and took it in and it
went down good and
we remembered who
we were and who our
neighbors were

And far from school
And my mother’s pots
those silver
and gold men stand
on the sidewalks like
statues, occasionally moving
to the beat coming from a

People toss
coins in their
coffee cans

and i watch and
wonder what color
lies under the silver
and gold

and they stand
still like

back at me
(c) 2015 Tony Robles

My Homeroom Teacher Sanford Chandler from George Washington High School

ChandlerMr. Chandler, my high school homeroom teacher and speech team coach from George Washington High School holding a copy of “Cool Don’t Live here No More–A letter to San Francisco”.  Mr. Chandler was one of the people the book is dedicated to.  The speech team was valuable in my development as a writer.  I’ll be forever grateful for the experience on the speech team where I competed in the category Original Prose and Poetry–O.P.P

The Greatest Poet I know By Tony Robles

I don’t write
No poetry, uncle
Anthony says

I leave that to
You, you’re the
Expert he says

He sits with his
Leg crossed over
His knee and his head
Cocked to the side

And he inhales
Deeply the pure air
In my aunt’s living room

And exhales the
The word


(And sometimes he draws it out:

And says

Man, I remember…
Man, that was a
Man, she was fine
Man, he was a beautiful
Brother but he passed
(He was young too)

I don’t write no
Poetry, he says, but
Check this out

He opens a small
Journal whose pages
Are mostly blank

His writing is big,
A combination of printing
And cursive that moves
Inside and outside the lines

And he recites his line

A rose is but
A rose is but
A rose, God bless
That Rose child

And he closes
The book and asks,
What do you think about that?

And I look at
My uncle and remember
How I laughed at the shades
He wore when I was a kid

Lollipop colored shades in
Yellow, red and green

And his bright colored clothes
That dripped the color of his
Skin, his talk, his walk, his life
On the streets stuck on

He always walked
On the sunny side
Of the street

He’s still there as
He sits in my aunt’s
Living room

My Uncle

© 2015 Tony Robles