Today is the third anniversary of the passing of Manong Al. Our family misses him very much, as well as his friends. Close friend of manong Al and former I-Hotel tenant, poet Pete Yamamoto has released a new book of poems entitled, “Journey”, Poems by Peter Kenichi Yamamoto. The book is dedicated to the memory of Manong Al.
“Don’t Look Now, It’s Al Robles”
By Peter Kenichi Yamamoto–May 24, 2009
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.
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:
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!!!
A 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.