cover image A Small Story About the Sky

A Small Story About the Sky

Alberto Rios. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (110p) ISBN 978-0-8101-3080-7

“Feeding the birds, by accident I spill the seed,” writes Rios (The Dangerous Shirt), Arizona’s first poet laureate, in the opening lines of his 13th volume. Pigeons flood the scene, and suddenly the average becomes the extraordinary. For Rios, the spilling of seed and the coming of birds are together a sign that a normal day has not been broken, but fractured. In that fracture time and place seem to form a prism; anything is possible. Rios peppers his book with listlike sonnets wherein nature becomes a vehicle for conjuring magic and telling the stories of the borderlands between the U.S. and Mexico. “The border is mighty, but even the parting of the seas created a path, not a barrier.” For Rios that path involves the “fierce what-was in all of us,” the varied universes that exist in our lives—not so much Frost’s “road less traveled” as both roads at once. Here a humble cattle fence becomes the terrifying, mesmerizing border fence; rabbits run in a field, and the specters of INS agents appear in a backyard. There is an order to history, to ancestry, but “the immense elephant of things” is inexplicable and rarely sensible. Rios knows this and doesn’t shy from it; he embraces it. [em](May) [/em]