This all starts with a small conversation about
Something you forget, or never understand, but hear
And then hum. You don’t understand the way you
Usually understand, but something in conversation,
Something in the talk between ourselves,
Something in that regular hears the song kept quiet
Underneath. Your other ears. They stand up.
They pay attention. They listen to the curious unsound:
Moving your leg you move your leg
Because something has told you to, and your leg has listened
In spite of you, better than you, along with you. You have
Such small ears, that first set of yours. But now:
Dancing to the word, the word dances you.
Your right leg has listened, or your hip,
Or both, the whole half of you
Moving to something that has told you to move
And in tides-making-waves this half of you speaks
To your other side, these twins of yours. Your other side,
Which then moves as well. It cannot help itself, your left side,
That follower left side of yours. It has always given you
Trouble. You’ve been able to manage before now, but now:
Both of you, you run to run, not to walk, run fast enough
To talk to yourself all those years ago,
Yourself in the wind slower than flying but just,
Flying low, permissible without a permit, at least for now.
You put your legs to the ground before the wings of your arms
Make a break for it as well, spreading
Up, and away from you at first, but they come back, within
Inches. Enough, they gather you, lift you, and all the you goes.
Come back, come back, people say, the ones who saw it all,
Come back, they say, but they don’t mean it.
They watch you go and like a song their own leg-ears hear it,
Their own legs and then their arms, all of them listening,
All of them wanting to go with you.
Alberto Ríos, a recent finalist for the National Book Award, is the author of ten books and chapbooks of poetry, including The Theater of Night—winner of the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award—three collections of short stories, and a memoir about growing up on the border, Capirotada. Ríos is the recipient of numerous awards and his work is included in over 200 national and international literary anthologies. His next book, The Dangerous Shirt, is forthcoming. His work is regularly taught and translated, and has been adapted to dance and both classical and popular music. Ríos is a Regents’ Professor and the Katharine C. Turner Chair in English at Arizona State University.