Pick-a-Poem: Alberto Rios


Welcome, blog readers, to another weekly installment of Pick-a-Poem. Every Wednesday we feature a new poem here on the blog. We hope that you enjoy these poems, that you find a new favorite poet, and that you are inspired to read even more poetry. As always, this week’s poem comes from Poetry Daily, a great website that features interesting poetry every single day. This week we’re featuring When There Were Ghosts by Alberto Rios.

According to his bio, Alberto Rios has written eleven collections of poetry throughout his career. This includes The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. In addition, he has written three short story collections and a memoir about growing up on the Mexican border. He is Arizona’s inaugural poet laureate, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and the host of the PBS program Books & Co.

When There Were Ghosts by Alberto Rios

On the Mexico side in the 1950s and ’60s,
There were movie houses everywhere

And for the longest time people could smoke
As they pleased in the comfort of the theaters.

The smoke rose and the movie told itself
On the screen and in the air both,

The projection caught a little
In the wavering mist of the cigarettes.

In this way, every story was two stories
And every character lived near its ghost.

Looking up we knew what would happen next
Before it did, as if the movie were dreaming

Itself, and we were part of it, part of the plot
Itself, and not just the audience.

And in that dream the actors’ faces bent
A little, hard to make out exactly in the smoke,

So that María Félix and Pedro Armendáriz
Looked a little like my aunt and one of my uncles—

And so they were, and so were we all in the movies,
Which is how I remember it: Popcorn in hand,

Smoke in the air, gum on the floor—
Those Saturday nights, we ourselves

Were the story and the stuff and the stars.
We ourselves were alive in the dance of the dream.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poem! For more posts like this, click right here.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan


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