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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 2, 2016.
About this Poem 

“Whatever our professional posturing, this poem speaks to the everyday lives we also lead—not cleaning the bathroom sink quite as much as we perhaps should, not always controlling the floss strings of good intentions now turned wild, not vacuuming nearly enough. But even in the mundane, we have, always at hand, surprise, surprise at its most savory in that we have least expected to find it where it is not advertised.”
—Alberto Ríos

The Secret in the Mirror


The mirror is dirty from the detritus of dailiness—
I look in the mirror and am freckled.

A week out from being cleaned, maybe two, maybe more,
The Milky Way shows itself in the secret silver,

This star chart in my own bathroom,
Aglow not in darkness but with the lights on,

Everything suddenly so clear.
It is not smear I am looking at, but galaxies.

It is not toothpaste and water spots—
When I look in the mirror, it is writing and numbers,

Musical notes, 1s and 0s, Morse-like codes, runes.
I am looking over into the other side,

And over there, whoever they are, it turns out
They look a lot like me.  Like me, but freckled.

Copyright © 2016 by Alberto Ríos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 2, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Alberto Ríos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 2, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Alberto Ríos

Alberto Ríos

Born in 1952, Alberto Ríos is the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona and the author of many poetry collections, including  A Small Story about the Sky (Copper Canyon Press, 2015). In 1981, he received the Walt Whitman Award for his collection Whispering to Fool the Wind (Sheep Meadow Press, 1982). He currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

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The border is a line that birds cannot see.
The border is a beautiful piece of paper folded carelessly in half.
The border is where flint first met steel, starting a century of fires.
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I’ve heard this thing where, when someone dies,
People close up all the holes around the house—

The keyholes, the chimney, the windows,
Even the mouths of the animals, the dogs and the pigs.

It’s so the soul won’t be confused, or tempted.
It’s so when the soul comes out of the body it’s