Tuesday, December 18, 2007


By Al Robles

Al Robles is a co-founder of Kearny Street Workshop and has been a community worker in Chinatown Manilatown for 40 years. His poetry has been published in many works, including the following poetry in RAPPIN WITH TEN THOUSAND CARABAOS IN THE DARK poems by Al Robles, published by UCLA Asian American Studies Center 1996.

Reprinted with permission of the poet

Rappin’ with Ten Thousand Carabaos in the Dark

International Hotel—in the mongo heart & isda mind of the Philippines—where old & young Pilipinos live, hang, & roam around all day like carabaos in the mud: eating, sleep­ing & working. Pilipinos scattered all over—brown faces pied high, moving like shadows on trees, concrete doorways, pool halls, barber shops. Guitar music echoes thru— down deep in your mongo heart & isda mind. Chinatown across the way. Sixty-thousand or more live in rooms the size of tea pots, stretching east, west, north & south. Thousands are crammed in damp basements, alley ways, behind run-down barrels of ancient Chinese mountain wine. Thousands of Chinese children run along soy sauce streets— long black hair glistening like a cool stream—a quiet moon watches. Short crop of hair—morning spring faces— underneath fresh-soaked clouds. All those tiny footsteps keep the winter belly warm.

All night session—ocean of words

Legaspi—Frank—Bob—-Bill Sorro—Mee Har—Me

& somebody else.

Early start at Legaspi’s UFA mountain fortress

Put down your white mind

with your eyes behind brown skin

brown =brown =brown=brown

fallen coconuts on a cold

cold winter day.


fish drying

in the hot summer sun

Bill Sorro: “You know, when I go into the pool halls

& see my Pilipino brothers, I want to say to them:

‘you know I know how you feel; I know how you think.’ I want to say to them,

Manong, manong, manong, don’t you know

you are being fucked.”

“I am brown, I am together, I am beautiful”

Come down from those white flaky hills

the smell of the carabao shit stills

the mind

keeps the pampano swimming

in your belly.

Put down your knives & forks

and eat rice & fish

with brown winter-soiled hands.

jump and wallow

in the mountain-grass heap shit

of the carabao.

Ah, Pilipinos

IF you only knew how brown you are

you would slide down

from the highest

mountain top

you would whip out your lava tongue

& burn up all that white shit

that’s keeping your people down.

Don’t you know

you smell like

the deep brown earth

if you only knew

if your eyes were

only opened

you would see the sun

come down