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Remembering Uncle Al Robles

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

By Tony Robles


Poet, servant of the people. How you served plates of rice and fish and poetry that stuck to the mind and nourished the heart in a place called Manilatown. Your love for the elders of our community was always true. You served the food of love and compassion amidst those who would come and pluck away at the bones, never compromising your love. Uncle Al--Filipino poet, Filipino-American poet who took a stand by sitting with our elders and talking with them, honoring their stories. Filipino ako, you wrote--I am Filipino. You never forgot the faces of your community, the sounds, the laughter, the pain, the suffering--the poetry of life. You said that as a poet, you'd much rather have the pain, the suffering--that you would not trade all the bad experiences for all the good ones. Uncle Al, y ou knew how to love, your poetry was love, your hands were love, your eyes were love as you walked the streets of our community, never forgetting the poor, the elders, those who suffer. We live in a society that doesn't know how to love. You were an example of this, an example of community. We need you, we need your love. You lived in poetry, poetry was your life. You captured the community in your poetry:

I have lived

so far

so much

knowing their lives

living in the same rooms

as small as tea pots

in J-Town

in Chinatown

in Manilatown

The old flats converted

broken up

into individual rooms

tiny kitchens...

concentrations camps

after the war

they come back home

in the saddness of

a thousand winter snows

they can fill

a hundred thousand

snowcrane diaries


Happy birthday Uncle Al. We love you. We need you, we need your love and your poetry. As you always said: Our poetry is the best part of our struggle, our struggle is the best part of our poetry.

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