blackmail press 31  Marginalization
Tony Robles

Marginalization - Pauline Canlas Wu
Tony Robles Author of the Children's books: Lakas and the Manilatown Fish and Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel. Pushcart Prize nominee for short story, "In My Country". Co-Editor and Revolutionary Worker Scholar of POOR

Poem for a brother who tends to overtalk me

We’ve known each
Other for a
Short time

But it seems we’ve
Stuffed years into
That short space

He speaks of women, his
Military service,
Women, his health
Women…and women again

Takes 9-10 pills a
Day for as many

Sometimes we’ll speak
On politics or something
Heavier and his voice
Will rise

At times we’ll start speaking
At the exact same

And his voice will take
Off, leaving mine stuck
In a series of stutters
And false starts

Nothing false about
Him, neither teeth
Nor hair or pride

He doesn’t overtalk
Me by intention, he’s merely
Been talked over most of
His life

He’s a 57 year old black
Man from St. Louis who looks at his
Life and decries his lack
Of ambition

If I had a little more
Of this and a little more
Of that, he says

And I listen
And pour him a little more

And listen
Some more

And the birds outside
Also listen

And echo
His song



We’re two working
Men going at our
Own pace
He’s just a
We’re both born
In this city and work
At an apartment complex
Housing the affluent
He mops and sweeps the
Marble floors while I greet
Residents who inquire about the
Status of their dry cleaning
Sometimes they complain
That the water is too hot
In the spa
(Burns their
I’m just a
Desk clerk
I refer those issues
To the appropriate
The janitor and I are
Required to raise the
American flag in the morning
The flag is tightly
Wrapped into a triangle
That pokes my side as I
Carry it
The janitor walks
Ahead of me
He fastens the flag
Into place and raises it
By pulling a rope
The flag slithers
Up the pole
We look to the ground
Where snails have sprouted
All around like moles
Others would kick or
step on them but
He picks each one
Raises it to the
Kiss of weeping leaves
The snails look
At us and laugh
We head back
To the apartment complex
at a snail's
just a janitor
just a desk clerk