cover image The Theater of Night

The Theater of Night

Alberto Rios, . . Copper Canyon, $20 (117pp) ISBN 978-1-55659-230-0

The latest from the prolific Rios (Capirotada , etc.), poet laureate of the state of Arizona, hews closely and yet imaginatively to the life stories of its double protagonists: Clemente and Ventura (who may, or may not, be the poet's grandparents) grow up, fall in love, raise a family and enter a thoughtful old age in the Sonora Desert along the U.S.-Mexico border, and their intertwined decisions and meditations depict at once the particularities of the Southwestern landscape and the gentle wisdom they glean from their own life course. Rios begins lyrically enough, with "star-filled summer nights/ In the high desert," promising (and delivering) "stories with always something of a sad look in the telling." The borderlands river which (Rios writes) "was their honeymoon" becomes "everyone's and not just theirs," as they become symbols of the poet's Mexican-American inheritance, and of the truths a long life can reveal: "The things of the desert, even the hills themselves,/ They grow this way for a reason." Rios favors long lines, end-stopped and rhymeless couplets, and quiet, often reassuring asides. The results can end up repetitive, even predictable, and may not expand his already considerable following. (Mar.)