cover image The Dangerous Shirt

The Dangerous Shirt

Alberto Rios, Alberto Ra-Os, . . Copper Canyon, $15 (96pp) ISBN 978-1-55659-298-0

Discursive yet aglitter with images, often abstract and yet insistently regional, the ninth collection from the Arizona-based Ríos (The Theater of Night ) includes something for almost everyone. A plethora of quiet poems explore such basic concepts as body and spirit, life and death, phenomenology and circumstance: “Night surrounds the sun as well, which tries every day// So hard to make us think otherwise”; “I am stuck inside the house of myself, my address... squarely in that place between// What I remember and what I can guess.” Ríos also tries for a sort of Stevensian and slightly ponderous comedy: “I am the commander of the suddenly portly vessel of myself,” begins a poem about overeating. Yet Ríos remains a writer alert to “the corners of the great American southwest,/ The orange and brown bricks, the lazy half-blue// Jacaranda,” and a writer conscious of his own Mexican ancestry, especially as the volume nears its close. As general as these ambitious poems can get, they circle back to the locales, sounds and tastes that he and his family know. Their experience finally exemplifies the rhythms of Ríos’ stable universe, “making the night into a nest/ Fixed and filled enough for what comes next.” (May)