by Alberto Rios

We live in secret cities
And we travel unmapped roads.

We speak words between us that we recognize
But which cannot be looked up.

They are our words.
They come from very far inside our mouths.

You and I, we are the secret citizens of the city
Inside us, and inside us

There go all the cars we have driven
And seen, there are all the people

We know and have known, there
Are all the places that are

But which used to be as well. This is where
They went. They did not disappear.

We each take a piece
Through the eye and through the ear.

It’s loud inside us, in there, and when we speak
In the outside world

We have to hope that some of that sound
Does not come out, that an arm

Not reach out
In place of the tongue.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alberto Alvaro Ríos was born in Nogales, Arizona, in 1952. He received a BA from the University of Arizona in 1974 and an MFA in Creative Writing from the same institution in 1979. His poetry collections include Dangerous Shirt (Copper Canyon Press, 2009); The Theater of Night (2007); The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body (2002), nominated for the National Book Award; Teodora Luna’s Two Kisses(1990); The Lime Orchard Woman (1988); Five Indiscretions (1985); and Whispering to Fool the Wind (1982), winner of the 1981 Walt Whitman Award. He has been honored with numerous awards, including six Pushcart Prizes, the Arizona Governor’s Arts Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Since 1994, he has served as Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University, where he has taught since 1982. In 2013, Ríos was named the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona.

ART: “Surreal City” by Phunke Pixie