Finding your tongue (For those born and raised in San Francisco)

It is said
That it is
The strongest muscle
In the human body

It has been
Used to hurt, injure, maim
Humiliate and on
Occasion, build

It has caused wars
And disputes, ignited
Love affairs, fanned
The flames of hatred,

Some have used it
To manipulate the
Masses while others have
Used it to enlighten

It is a powerful
Thing, this stained
Curved, twisted, forked
Thick, thin thing that lies in
Our mouth like a springboard
Ready to pounce or inspire or
Light the fire

No wonder there are
Those who want to
Suppress it or cut it out

Some of us go through
Life not knowing that
We have one

And there’s this guy
In San Francisco who
Didn’t know he had

And year after year
Eviction and removal
Have gone by

And the friends of his life
The landscape of his life
The elders of his life
Have disappeared before
His eyes, replaced by

He’s finally found
His tongue

It was in a jar
In the cupboard in
The house where
He grew up

And the guy
Took that jar
And looked at his

A lot had settled
And built up
On it

Hot sauce
Soy sauce
Fish sauce

In a ferment
Of fire

Waiting to
Be found


(c) 2014 Tony Robles


We Declare The Home of an African American Elder in San Francisco an Eviction Free Zone

It smells like home

It smells like butterscotch candy

It smells like a kitchen that breathes

It smells like warm gravy on thanksgiving

It smells like my grandma’s hug

It smells like my grandfather’s rug

It smells like the blooming flower of a garden’s dream

This is an eviction free zone

The ceiling is stucco that

Sparkles like stars

There is a dusty chandelier with light bulbs

Shaped like candle flames

All the flames are out except one, and it


This is an eviction free zone

On the mantel are pictures of black

Faces, of grandmas, grandpas, grandchildren

Watercolor pictures of mountains and oceans

That melts the eyes in warm light

This is an eviction free zone

This is a maple syrup zone

This is a gumbo, black eyed pea zone

This is a Western Addition, Bayview zone

This is a down home black folk zone

This is the heart of San Francisco zone

This is an honor your elders zone

This is a house of memory

This is a house of no evictions

This is a house of songs

And a house above all houses

With songs above all


This is a down home home

With down home songs,

Down home voices

The eviction notice has been sent

The notice of intent has been sent

It has been received

Papers covered in dead verse

Sealed with a lead tongue

And the letter is addressed

To Mrs. Smith

43 year resident of her flat

In San Francisco

This is an eviction free zone

(c) Tony Robles 2014

I’m Fucking Broke by Leroy F. Moore Jr.

I’m Fucking Broke

By Leroy F. Moore Jr.


My life is no Hip-Hop video

Conscious rap still don’t know

I can’t pertain no lights camera or action

Let me break you off something lets go


I’m Fucking Broke


Not spiting Hip-Hop more like crying the Blues

No cypher got gentrified off my corner

No Adidas I got holes in my Payless’s shoes
Ray Charles sang my anthem, “Busted & I was born to loose!”


I’m Fucking Broke


Not laughing its no joke

The price of Hip-Hop culture is now out of my reach

We use to be it now we buy it

All of this paraphernalia can’t afford to fall for the okie doke


My three-wheel bike is my limo

Don’t look like what is on Love & Hip-Hop
At the end of the month

That is the time I’m at the lowest of my low


I’m Fucking Broke


That is for real

Hustling & dealing

Tap-dancing & jiving

For that dollar


Back then Blind Willie Johnson moaned

Today I’m hollowing

Off beat & Out of tune

Driving me to become a loon

Not spiting Hip-Hop more like crying the Blues

No cypher got gentrified off my corner

No adidas I got holes in my Payless’s shoes
Ray Charles sang my anthem, “Busted & I was born to loose!”


Not even on YouTube

Under the underground can’t hear a sound

So fucking broke can’t even buy a rope to get out

I’m done, I’m through


Just close the coffin so like Hip-Hop I can R.I.P.


By Leroy Moore Jr.


Google Bus Poem

White blight
Light sweeping
Across sacred skin

Impersonal hum
Of a drone

Scarring the eyes
Searing the skin
With words:
Eviction and displacement

Behind tinted glass,
Digital colonizers
With eyes that are neither
Half full or half empty look
For vacant space

Back and forth,
Up and down

Cutting across
Our skin and into
Marrow and bone

Our Epitaphs written in
Invisible digital ink
On the steps and walls
And floorboards and
Pots and pans in the
Murals of our bones

Crying out from
The soil

Not to be seen
In the drone of white
Blight light

Or in
An app

© 2013 Tony Robles

Slow By Tony Robles

This black brother walked
In to my office
(That really isn’t mine)
And said he was glad
To see me

How you been
my brother?
He asked

And I tried
To place his

It is December and
He wore a red and
Black sweater and
Gold chain and one of those
Fur caps designed for the snow

A santa of a different kind

And he asked me about
The computer class that
Our organization offers and I
Told him that space was available

And he smiled and
Said that he is
Playing his music

(He is a percussionist)

And he spoke of
(Not Santa)
And got a bit teary eyed

And then he said
He hoped the computer class
Could help him because he
Is a little slow when it comes
To picking things up

And his words, undoubtedly
Inspired by some school, hung
Around his neck like a brick faced

And I smiled and said,
You know, slow is best

I mean, when you eat a
Pot of stew, you want
To savor it

You don’t want to
Do it like you’re
Trying to catch the Amtrak
Train out of town

And he smiled
And I smiled

And our laughter



(c) 2013 Tony Robles

Death Range

Mr. Brogan always
Seemed younger than
His almost 70 years

And his sporting
Hip hop pieces of
Clothing made him seem
Closer to 50 than his actual age

He was nearly 6 feet
Tall with taut tendons
And a sharp keen mind that
Stoked his thoughts and formed
Words with a quickness of tongue
That shaped sayings and phrases
That could later be coined

He was involved in community
Equity and justice struggles
And proclaimed once at a
Rally, “I’m so broke I can’t afford
To go window shopping”

And there he stood at the
Memorial of a friend who’d
Recently died

And he was close to the
Deceased, remembering things
Such as his love of singing and his
Genuine concern for people

He looked out at the people
Gathered, most of whom were
His age, more or less’

And he looked at his peers
And said, “You know, most
Of us here are in death range”

And the gathering was

And Mr. Brogan’s voice
Was a strong, line blending
Into line until a song

Within the range
Of Poetry

and everybody
joined him

finding their

(c) 2013 Tony Robles

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you this Ellis Act Alert

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you this Ellis Act Alert

By Tony Robles


We interrupt your regularly

Scheduled program to bring

You this Ellis act alert


Mom and pop are missing,

Pry open your eyes

Let your ears hear


Mom is 79 and pop

Is 82 and have lived

In San Francisco all their lives


Mom and pop–unplugged,

Displaced in a city of wireless wires

Where friends that never were are

Flung into heaps of the unfriended,

Replaced by holograms that begat

Other holograms who slither behind

Tinted glass bus windows


In kitchen pot silence

In floorboard splinters

In the skin of torn rugs

We search for stains like

Maps for clues, traces


This is an Ellis alert

And mom and pop are gone

And with them the smell of



Black eyed peas


Bitter melon


We looked for mom and pop

In the book of landlords

And that book, whose edges

Were a knife, whose pages were

Not stained by a single memory,

Read only one name:  Ellis


Ellis cover to cover

Ellis front to back

Ellis open and shut

Case closed


And we searched for

The book of the evicted

Whose pages and spines multiplied

And were strewn on street corners and

Garbage bins and the names of the

Evicted were written in the streets by

The shrill talon of the raven to be

Paved over by the machinery of

No memory


This is an Ellis alert

And mom and pop

Are out there somewhere


Pry open your eyes

Let your ears hear


With the click of the

Tongue, and not the mouse,

Pop made the birds come and bring

Together philosophies from every

Corner of the world




Mom is your mom,

Is my mom, is your skin,

Is my skin, is my memory

Is our memory


Pry open your eyes

Let your ears hear


Mom and pop

Are missing


We now return

To your regularly

Scheduled program



© Tony Robles 2013