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
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When There Were Ghosts
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.
Born in 1952, Alberto Ríos is the author of several collections of poetry and was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2014. He is also the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona. In 1981, he received the Walt Whitman Award for his collection Whispering to Fool the Wind (Sheep Meadow Press, 1982).