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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberto Ríos
Alberto Ríos
Born in 1952, Alberto Ríos is the author of several collections of poetry and was the recipient of the 1981 Walt Whitman Award...
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FURTHER READING
Ghost Poems
Hamlet, Act I, Scene I [Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes]
by William Shakespeare
A Ghost
by Cole Swensen
All Hallows Night
by Lizette Woodworth Reese
At Night
by Yone Noguchi
Blue Dementia
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Blue Oxen
by Dara Wier
Epitaph
by Eric Pankey
Ghost
by Paul Mariani
Ghost Elephants
by Jean Valentine
Ghost House
by Robert Frost
Ghost in the Land of Skeletons
by Christopher Kennedy
Ghost Notes [excerpt]
by Ralph Burns
Ghostology
by Rebecca Lindenberg
Ghosts That Need Reminding
by Dana Levin
Hallow-E'en, 1915
by Winifred M. Letts
Haunted Houses
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Haunted Seas
by Cale Young Rice
How Can It Be I Am No Longer I
by Lucie Brock-Broido
Lamp or Mirror
by Tony Barnstone
Lenore
by Edgar Allan Poe
Letter from a Haunted Room
by Lisa Sewell
Low Barometer
by Robert Bridges
My hero bares his nerves
by Dylan Thomas
Ode to a Dressmaker's Dummy
by Donald Justice
Patsy Sees a Ghost
by Lola Haskins
Poems About Ghosts
Rain
by Claribel Alegría
Red String
by Minnie Bruce Pratt
Restless Ghost
by Eric Pankey
Sequestered Writing
by Carolyn Forché
Shadwell Stair
by Wilfred Owen
Shaking the Grass
by Janice N. Harrington
Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi
by Garrett Hongo
Song for the Clatter-Bones
by F. R. Higgins, read by James Wright
Spirit Birds
by Stanley Plumly
The Apparition
by John Donne
The Ghost Has No Home
by Jeff Clark
The Haunted Palace
by Edgar Allan Poe
To the Trespasser
by David Barber
Unbidden
by Rae Armantrout
We're All Ghosts Now
by Dara Wier
What They Found In the Diving Bell
by Traci Brimhall
Whose Story of Us We Is Told Is Us
by Shane McCrae
Poems About Movies
Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog)
by A. Van Jordan
A Score for Tourist Movies
by Mary Austin Speaker
After the Movie
by Marie Howe
An American in Hollywood
by Frank Bidart
Au Hasard Balthazar
by Stacy Szymaszek
Ave Maria
by Frank O'Hara
Brad Pitt
by Aaron Smith
Chaplinesque
by Hart Crane
Daffy Duck In Hollywood
by John Ashbery
French Movie
by David Lehman
Heroic Simile
by Robert Hass
Homage to Sharon Stone
by Lynn Emanuel
Old Boy
by A. Van Jordan
On the Waterfront
by B. H. Fairchild
One Shies at the Prospect of Raising Yet Another Defense of Cannibalism
by Josh Bell
To the Film Industry in Crisis
by Frank O'Hara
Trigger Guard
by Joanna Fuhrman
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When There Were Ghosts

 
by Alberto Ríos

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 it 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.
About this poem:
"I’ve taught a course on magical realism since the seventies, and when people hear this they often talk immediately about ghosts. They want to talk about 'magical,' while I try to point to the noun 'realism.' But this made me think: Can ghosts and realism be reconciled outside a literary moment? Yes, I realized, drawing on my own life. Yes and easily."

—Alberto Ríos






Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 3, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.
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