A Small Story about the Sky

By Alberto Ríos b. 1952 Alberto Rios
The fire was so fierce,
So red, so gray, so yellow
That, along with the land,
It burned part of the sky
Which stayed black in that corner
For years,
As if it were night there
Even in the daytime,
A piece of the sky burnt
And which then
Could not be counted on
Even by the birds.

It was a regular fire—
Terrible—we forget this
About fire—terrible
And full of pride.  
It intended to be
Big, no regular fire.  
Like so many of us,
It intended to be more
And this time was.
It was not better or worse
Than any other fire
Growing up.  
But this time, it was a fire
At just the right time
And in just the right place—
If you think like a fire—
A place it could do something big.

Its flames reached out
With ten thousand pincers,
As if the fire
Were made of beetles and scorpions
Clawing themselves to get up,
Pinching the air itself
And climbing,
So many sharp animals
On each other’s backs
Then into the air itself,
Ten thousand snaps and pinches
At least,
So that if the sky
Was made of something,
It could not get away this time.

Finally the fire
Caught the sky,
Which acted like a slow rabbit
Which had made a miscalculation.
It didn’t believe this could happen
And so it ran left,
Right into the thin toothpicks of flames,
Too fast to pull back,
The sky with all its arms,
Hands, fingers, fingernails,
All of it
Disappeared.  
Goodbye.

The sky stayed black
For several years after.
I wanted to tell you
This small story
About the sky.
It’s a good one
And explains why the sky
Comes so slowly in the morning,
Still unsure of what’s here.  
But the story is not mine.
It was written by fire,
That same small fire
That wanted to come home
With something of its own
To tell,
And it did,
A small piece of blue in its mouth.

Source: Poetry (February 2011).

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2011
 Alberto  Ríos

Biography

Alberto Ríos has won acclaim as a writer who uses language in lyrical and unexpected ways in both his poems and short stories, which reflect his Chicano heritage and contain elements of magical realism. "Ríos's poetry is a kind of magical storytelling, and his stories are a kind of magical poetry," commented Jose David Saldivar in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Ríos grew up in a Spanish-speaking family but was forced to . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Weather, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Mythology & Folklore, Fairy-tales & Legends

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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