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Ken TuckerAlberto Ríos is a poet of reverie. His concise poems --- often stately columns of couplets --- drift off regularly into memories of a Mexican-American childhood in Arizona. He recalls family members, childhood friends, and (he's especially vivid about these) animals. In "My Coyote," he writes, "It is not a dog, but a dog / Exponentially, a dog / Taken to the third power, / The algebraic dog / Made entirely of those parts / We do not want to think about." Ríos creates a dreamlike intensity by repeating small words, like "dog" in the poem above, and, in "Chinese Food in the Fifties," "Wings / The way the wings from birds, / From hummingbirds and bees, / From June bugs, the way in their moving wings / One sees nothing." Ríos's poems also tell short stories that are both elegant and prickly, like one about an unnamed man who strolls across the Mexican-American border to do a little shopping for his wife and is arrested. Left forgotten for days in a small jail, he is asked, "Why didn't you say something?" Ríos concludes, "This question was a trick. / The man would not be fooled. / The man had manners. ? He knew going in what was right. Speak only when spoken to. / And in jail, in jail especially. / It was a simple thing to know." Whether talking about the smell of food, the essence of a crow or a bear's character or of hard-won human wisdom, Ríos writes in a serenely clear manner that enhances the drama in the quick scenes he summons up.
— New York Times Book Review