Don't Look Now, It's Al Robles

Tiny - Posted on 01 May 2012








(Editor's note: May 2nd 2012 marks the third anniversary of the passing of the poet Al Robles. Uncle Al was a board member of POOR Magazine and my uncle, mentor and spiritual father.  We honor him by featuring the following poem from poet Pete Yamamoto's newly published collection of poems entitled, "Journey" Poems by Peter Kenichi Yamamoto.  The collection is dedicated to his close friend Al Robles.  Pete Yamamoto is a former tenant of the I-Hotel, whose new collection of poems give honor to elders, people in struggle and those who fight for social justice)



Grey hair pulled to a short ponytail.

High forehead and a tan face.

Mustache and a wispy grey beard.

You are wearing hiking boots.


Flamboyant Hawaiian shirt of many colors.

Blue denim vest with many pockets.

Your glasses framing wide eyes.

Your hands pointing, fingers relaxing.


Your mouth slightly open.

A  straight back on a smallish frame.

Yet healthy and able to run after a fleeing bus.

Your thirty five pound backpack filled with notebooks and free lunches.


Al is talking.


About everything.

And nothing.


Al is pointing.

And he is saying:

"It's gonna be O.K., now!...."

Al dodges and throws a few low punches like a flyweight Filipino



Then slaps your hands and arms and shoulders.

Grabs you in a "Brothers" handshake and says

"Porget i-it!!", and

"Are you CRAZY?!!!" "Are you KIDDING me?!!!"


The sun goes down after a hot day.

Al still has energy, his body doesn't stand tired.

He has power in his bent-legged stance.'

The inner "Ki" power of Zen.


Then raises his chin and says:

"Hey man!"

And shrugs his backpack farther up his shoulder.

The roosters square off ready for the cockfight.


I am laughing at this sensitive non-ego man.

This humble yet strong guy who asks:

"Hab you had your breakFUST yet?"

And looks earnestly and interestedly into your eyes.


Then:  "Far out!!!!"

And as you are leaving:  "Love you brother!!!!"

And embraces you.

Al, leave me alone, you're killing me!!!


The sun has been down for a long time.

It is dark.

Talking about grains of rice and Asian people.

Pretty girls, and poetry, and imagination.....


"Come to me my melancholy ba-aby!!"

You just came from somewhere.

When you leave you will go to somewhere.

And now you are here rapping with ME!!!


rappin' carabao in the dark.

Dancing among the caribou.

A throaty breathy shafty shakuhachi.

The clear tones of Kulintang.


Sorria can't cook enough rice and adobo.

Manong Freddy can't pick banjo fast enough.

Ayson cannot smile weakly and simply enough.

Primo has just kissed Geraldine in lieu of payment for lunch.


I'm getting drunk offa one single beer,

Diones is yelling about "shit-disturbers"

Sorro is clucking his tongue in his cheek.

Your daughter, Okashi, smiles for you that bright, wide smile of hers.


Your poem about Nisei who went through concentration camps.

Your admiration for Carlos Bulosan.

The new I-Hotel is a sweet victory for the people.

My eyes fill with tears again and again.



(c) Pete Yamamoto May 24, 2009


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