Prose sketches from Michael Robinson

City Sounds

 My foster father moved to his own rhythm, tapping down the street. In the quietness of my memory I wonder what inspired him to have such a rich soul, but soul was a movement in the neighborhood.   It was the Motown Sounds that awaken my love of life: Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations along with James Brown the godfather of soul all were alive with soul. The essence of the black moment outside of the anger and riots, enjoy the beat and move your hips to the sound. While maybe people rioted it was the music that many more enjoyed. It was a special night when I saw the godfather on stage. Sweat pouring down his face and as he was escorted off stage he would reappear and be escorted off again only to reappear. It was truly a show of wonder. There was no energy left after watching any of those who performed to sounds of soul in the inner- city. The streets are free of violence and I listen to sounds and I dance.


Waiting to be Born


Waiting to be born no not born again, but born for the first time the only time. No, not reincarnation either. Rather born of a mother and father, not a foster mother or father. But my birth parents, a young mother with long flowing hair. Her hair would be blond and her fingers would be young and strong to hold me. But I still would be black with soul. My father would also be white with short hair and would wear glasses. My mother would have a pureness about her. Not a worldly woman and she would listen to Jesus on that old AM Radio and my father would move with a cadence when he walked as if he had been in the military most of his adult life. Maybe I did have those two parents because I can’t get away from that damn AM Radio and those tapping sounds as I walk to my bed at night to listen to the FM station.


Poets write not to be lonely. Words become our companion. What would it be like to be with a whore? Would she turn like I turn the page in a book? Would she leave an imprint on my soul like I leave an imprint on the reader’s mind? These are things that I wonder about and what of my friend with the auburn hair. I’m too afraid to tell her in person about my feelings and I would become attached to her.  She would have questions and I would have answers with words I have no questions or answers just words to celebrate life. Could I celebrate without being with a hooker? I often ponder this thought ever since I met my first prostitute, captured by her innocence or was it my innocence in 1967?

Why Do Men Pray?

For Philip

Men pray not to be alone with our doubts and fears and loneliness and our hopes. My mentor reminds me of how important God was in my life. Jesus for my foster mother, but my foster father never talked about God. He was dying of cancer in 1969. He just asked for me. I was too young to handle being with him as he died. “He’s turning dark and is asking for you.” I was told. At his funeral I stood there examining his face and his hair. He wasn’t wearing his glasses like I was used to seeing him. It’s interesting that seeing him was unlike seeing my foster mother that last week of her life. The sound of his tapping as he worked disappeared as he lay there in his casket. For a moment, I could swear that I could hear him walking. I don’t remember his voice but I remember his walk. God must have been a part of his life because he walked as if he were on clouds.




My foster father had several sons and his youngest son Jr. went into the army in late 60s at the height of the Vietnam War. Jr. like many inner-city young men was drafted. I only know I was told he was not the same when he came home. He was always kind to me. I was his Fat Mike. Somehow him calling me that didn’t bother me like when my cousin called me that.  “You knew what they use to do?” he would say with enthusiasm and part eagerness. I was his captive audience for the moment. Looking back he just wanted someone to listen to him. He continued, “Horse shoe ambush, or an L shape ambush.” I notice that Jr. was thin like his father but he looked beaten and always smelled of alcohol. I always felt sad when I saw him. He was being eaten away by something. Seven to eight years later I worked with other Vets of the Vietnam War. Charles had gray hair as if he was in his mid-sixties and would fall asleep throughout-out the day. He died within the year. I don’t know what happened to Jr. And till this day I can see his body and his teeth that were decaying because of his drinking.