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Hands–A poem for Uncle Al In Filipino American History Month

“Hands”

My father joked once
About a man who moved
His hands a lot when
He spoke

Dad would say that if
You cut the man’s
Hands off, he wouldn’t
Be able to speak

My uncle, the poet Al
Robles, my father’s
brother, spoke with
His hands

Hands attached to nothing
Hands attached to something
Mind attached to nothing
Mind attached to something
Heart attached to nothing
Heart attached to something

Yet everything

Uncle Al spoke with
Hands not cut
Off

From elders
From manongs
From community
From the whispering kulintang eyes of
Carabaos
From Nihonmachi
From jazz
From thick Manilatown dreams
Dancing in steam rice
From Kearny Street
From struggle
From the I-Hotel
From Delano and Watsonville
From Gold Mountain
From Angel Island
From Fillmore Street
From Ifugao Mountain
From Agbayani Village

With hands
He spoke of
Things

With hands
He felt
Things

Felt life

With his
Hands

Never cut
Off

© 2012 Tony Robles

 

Al Robles: A Treasure Not Lost by Lorenz Mazon Dumuk

(Note: Lorenz Mazon Dumuk is the author of “Ay Nako: Writing Through The Struggle.”  The following poem was dedicated to manong Al.  The Robles family thanks Lorenz for this poem which beautifully captures the essence of Al)

 

I remember you reciting your poem
while jazzy hands slapped
against an upright bass
Your words perfumed with the scent
of sampaguita memories
and resonated the sounds of jeepneys
passing by San Francisco cable cars.
Stories that still warm the soul
like fresh pan de sal in the morning

That iconic beard and those glasses
you brought to life with your stunning presence.
This world painted and created
by the strokes of your poety;
communities built with the beat of your heart.

 

Al’s nephew rapper Ebone 415 and his latest release