Fingerprints of a Hunger Strike Book Launch coverage on TV’s Balitang America



It’s funny the way
They argued about
Everything from driving
To politics to the shape
Of the kitchen table to
Who really won the fight
Of the century

There were discussions/
Debates on politics over bowls
Of soup, spooning in mouthfuls
Of this and that, swelling in the
Belly and sweat forming on the

Father and son at the
Table, at both
Ends, the distance between
Them the length of a bright
Yellow kitchen table that held
The memory of lemons and
Warmth of butter

And sometimes nothing
Was said as they mouthed
Unsaid words while they
Chewed on opposite ends

And son


One breaking windows
The other breaking wind

© 2017 Tony Robles

Letter to Iris Canada

I have been thinking of you.  There’s an emptiness since you left us.  I do not speak merely of your physical presence–the presence of an elder whose mere gestures and silence spoke of the community that was built by hands such as yours—a community that is being taken away from us;  but a presence that was as real as any tourist landmark—more real, in fact, because you spoke to us, to our core of what it means to be an elder, a black woman in San Francisco. You refused to be silenced.  Postcard images are flat and tailored made for the whimsy of those who are just passing through.  Perhaps the words, “Since you left us” is inappropriate, for it betrays the truth of what you were burdened with in the last years—last moments of your life.  You were taken from us, your memories and your life—the years that wrote itself in the creases of your face, the aroma of your kitchen, the colors that surrounded and bloomed in your living room—minimized and disrespected in the ugliest way in an attempt to erase your presence from our landscape in the name of making money at any cost.  To those who bought your building, you were the “furniture that came with the place”—an old lady that “needed to go”–because there were units that needed condo-converting and you were old–there wasn’t space for you and what you represented.  We know better.  I needn’t repeat how ugly the city was in your eviction struggle, allowing a 100 year old woman to be evicted; sheriff’s locking you out of your home while you were away at a community senior program.  This is San Francisco?  San Francisco is a city of facelifts and buzzwords—beautify, renew—words that get tossed around a whole lot.  But this beauty is surface beauty only.  The fault lines are hidden, invisible to many but they break through just as sure as the fog eventually breaks.  As rich as this city is, it is evident that its infrastructure is falling apart—that of civility, decorum, community—those things that connect us as human beings. Iris, I am ashamed of this city and I am ashamed of how it treated you and the legacy that was you, that was your community—without so much as a thank you.  This city lives with a poverty of human connectedness. We needn’t intellectualize this—it is abound.  Iris, we miss you.  The roots you left are still strong.  We still feel your presence—we have not forgotten you—those of us who love this city, those of us who don’t forget the connectedness the city has to our lives in real ways that can be breathed and tasted and felt and touched, beyond commercial exchanges mediated by the digital parade that gives the illusion of connectedness.  Iris, you lived 100 years and every day I walk in this city and see 100 lifetimes in the faces living in the cold–broken but still here.  Iris, we want to push onward but how do we?  How do we throw off the blanket of indifference that smothers this city?  Iris, the broken bodies, minds and spirits are piling up under a full moon fit for a postcard addressed to no one.  Iris, we miss you, we haven’t forgotten you or the city that forgot you.  How can we forget?  How can we forget your face?  How can we forget your voice?  How can we forget what the city allowed to happen to you?  How can we forget your so-called neighbors and landlord who wanted you out?  How can we forget such abuse of an elder?  We are hungry for your words, your wisdom, your heart.  Speak to us, Iris.  We need you.

Massage Parlor in Dumaguete

It seemed like a
tea garden or the
garden of eden or
the land of a thousand
stoic faces steeped in
a silence of scent and
leaves and remnants

you want the
full body, she asked

she wore lots of
make up and struck
me as the aging
daughter of a diplomat

and the curtains
gently rose and fell
as each masseuse
walked by

i was led to a
room and was
told to remove
my pants

i obeyed and lay
flat on my

a male voice

Do you want
it hard, he asked

Don’t do me
any favors, i

there’s also
soft and
moderate, the
voice added

(What about female, i wanted to ask but didn’t)

I’ll take
i responded

and the hands
found the disconnected
bridge of my shoulders
and back as a towel
covered my waist

the hands found
the current of
my blood

hands speaking
a thousand

taking hold
of mountains


in a massage


(c) 2017 Tony Robles

Motorized Tricycle in Manila

Wrapped in candy wrapper
Notions of sky
Of heaven
Of hell
Of soil
Of soul

The tricycle
Gears bloom
Mud-caked toes
oil and rust

The clicking
Procession presses forward
In mid and full swallow of
Fumes and in the pauses
Between chews of

Moving with the flow
Of blood, this brood
Of traffic, this ambivalence
Of tendons and tensions
Cloaked in grace in a day
To day matinee of survival

The tricycle moves
Ahead, the motor clicking
Like a movie camera as
Film coats the eyes giving
Shape and dimension to
What is and what is not seen

What is distorted
In the heart’s lens

The driver sees
it all, has seen it
all in the unblinking
shots of rain
delivering the corpses
of yesterday’s flowers

And the motorized
Tricycle is a

Capturing the

Every bullet
Piercing the
Wall of the skin
Of anonymity

Moving through
Bone, shattering

And the
Hour ahead

(C) 2017 Tony Robles