Archives for posts with tag: Alberto Rios

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REFUGIO’S HAIR
by Alberto Rios

In the old days of our family,
My grandmother was a young woman
Whose hair was as long as the river.
She lived with her sisters on the ranch
La Calera–The Land of the Lime–
And her days were happy.
But her uncle Carlos lived there too,
Carlos whose soul had the edge of a knife.
One day, to teach her to ride a horse,
He made her climb on the fastest one,
Bareback, and sit there
As he held its long face in his arms.
And then he did the unspeakable deed
For which he would always be remembered:
He called for the handsome baby Pirrín
And he placed the child in her arms.
With that picture of a Madonna on horseback
He slapped the shank of the horse’s rear leg.
The horse did what a horse must,
Racing full toward the bright horizon.
But first he ran under the álamo trees
To rid his back of this unfair weight:
This woman full of tears
And this baby full of love.
When they reached the trees and went under,
Her hair, which had trailed her,
Equal in its magnificence to the tail of the horse,
That hair rose up and flew into the branches
As if it were a thousand arms,
All of them trying to save her.
The horse ran off and left her,
The baby still in her arms,
The two of them hanging from her hair.
The baby looked only at her
And did not cry, so steady was her cradle.
Her sisters came running to save them.
But the hair would not let go.
From its fear it held on and had to be cut,
All of it, from her head.
From that day on, my grandmother
Wore her hair short like a scream,
But it was long like a river in her sleep.

PAINTING: “Woman Combing Her Hair” by Edgar Degas (1894).

SOURCE: “Refugio’s Hair” appears in Alberto Rios‘s collection The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2002), available at Amazon.com.

Image 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.

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THE CITIES INSIDE US
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.

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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

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THAT THING
by Alberto Rios

No word rhymes with silence, or tries to. 
No word wants to visit that furtive backyard garden. 

Silence is the word that will not be spoken–
After all, who can pronounce it? Once spoken,

We will not hear it. It is the story not told, 
The memory carefully unspoken in this house, 

Your house. Silence is the place underneath language 
An unto-itself, an army 

Stronger than words, more patient, 
Bigger than the dictionary. 

Its weapons are familiar, 
Painful, without antidote and giving of no respite. 

Quiet tells us it is coming, and so, too, 
Quiet is tolerated, left to be, undisturbed at its work, 

Silence’s grim reaper, allowed only to make deliveries,
To fill the bins, to cut the grass, eat if it needs to, 

Then expected to leave, quickly, cleanly, 
No trace afterward, no errant grass cuttings, 

No black from the bottom of its shoes on the floor. 
Good bye, we say, and in saying 

Mispronounce its name, but happy not to know,
Ready not to ask. Good-bye, we say, and mean it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alberto Rios‘s ten collections of poetry includeThe Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, a finalist for the National Book Award. His most recent book is The Dangerous Shirt, preceded by The Theater of Night, which received the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award. Published in the New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and other journals, he has also written three short story collections and a memoir, Capirotada, about growing up on the Mexican border. Regents Professor and the Katharine C. Turner Chair in English, Rios has taught at Arizona State University for over 29 years.

PHOTO: Claude Monet‘s garden, Giverny, France.

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THAT THING
by Alberto Rios

No word rhymes with silence, or tries to. 
No word wants to visit that furtive backyard garden. 

Silence is the word that will not be spoken–
After all, who can pronounce it? Once spoken,

We will not hear it. It is the story not told, 
The memory carefully unspoken in this house, 

Your house. Silence is the place underneath language 
An unto-itself, an army 

Stronger than words, more patient, 
Bigger than the dictionary. 

Its weapons are familiar, 
Painful, without antidote and giving of no respite. 

Quiet tells us it is coming, and so, too, 
Quiet is tolerated, left to be, undisturbed at its work, 

Silence’s grim reaper, allowed only to make deliveries,
To fill the bins, to cut the grass, eat if it needs to, 

Then expected to leave, quickly, cleanly, 
No trace afterward, no errant grass cuttings, 

No black from the bottom of its shoes on the floor. 
Good bye, we say, and in saying 

Mispronounce its name, but happy not to know,
Ready not to ask. Good-bye, we say, and mean it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alberto Rios‘s ten collections of poetry include The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, a finalist for the National Book Award. His most recent book is The Dangerous Shirt, preceded by The Theater of Night, which received the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award. Published in the New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and other journals, he has also written three short story collections and a memoir, Capirotada, about growing up on the Mexican border. Regents Professor and the Katharine C. Turner Chair in English, Rios has taught at Arizona State University for over 29 years.

PHOTO: Monet’s Garden, Giverny, France.

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MY CRIMINAL NOTEBOOK
by Alberto Rios

I am stealing things All the time.
I steal what I can from everywhere, 

The light, the air, The music that matters most to me. 
I carry them away neatly, invisible in word 

Valises, inside unfathomable 
Thoughts, attached to the magnet 

Harvest of a song I’m singing-nobody, 
Nobody is the wiser- I carry everything away with me 

Using rhyme dollies and spelling knots.
The police have not caught on. 

But I am at large, 
Unwieldy, and unstoppable. 

I walk freely 
Every day, anywhere, all the time

In spite of having stolen 
Horses and kisses-the stars themselves, 

More than one, more than once.
I steal, I steal, 

I have always stolen. 
Be careful of me. When you see me, 

Speak quietly and do little. 
Do not let me notice you. 

Get away 
If you want to be safe. 

Illustration: Pages from The Diary of Frida Kahlo

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REFUGIO’S HAIR
by Alberto Rios

In the old days of our family,
My grandmother was a young woman
Whose hair was as long as the river.
She lived with her sisters on the ranch
La Calera–The Land of the Lime–
And her days were happy.
But her uncle Carlos lived there too,
Carlos whose soul had the edge of a knife.
One day, to teach her to ride a horse,
He made her climb on the fastest one,
Bareback, and sit there
As he held its long face in his arms.
And then he did the unspeakable deed
For which he would always be remembered:
He called for the handsome baby Pirrín
And he placed the child in her arms.
With that picture of a Madonna on horseback
He slapped the shank of the horse’s rear leg.
The horse did what a horse must,
Racing full toward the bright horizon.
But first he ran under the álamo trees
To rid his back of this unfair weight:
This woman full of tears
And this baby full of love.
When they reached the trees and went under,
Her hair, which had trailed her,
Equal in its magnificence to the tail of the horse,
That hair rose up and flew into the branches
As if it were a thousand arms,
All of them trying to save her.
The horse ran off and left her,
The baby still in her arms,
The two of them hanging from her hair.
The baby looked only at her
And did not cry, so steady was her cradle.
Her sisters came running to save them.
But the hair would not let go.
From its fear it held on and had to be cut,
All of it, from her head.
From that day on, my grandmother
Wore her hair short like a scream,
But it was long like a river in her sleep. 

PAINTING: “Woman Combing Her Hair” by Edgar Degas (1894)

phunke_pixie
THE CITIES INSIDE US
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.

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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