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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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Mr. Teodoro Luna in his later years had taken to kissing
His wife
Not so much with his lips as with his brows.
This is not to say he put his forehead
Against her mouth--
Rather, he would lift his eyebrows, once, quickly:
Not so vigorously he might be confused with the villain
Famous in the theaters, but not so
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                                              One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.


We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could

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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
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