The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body

The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body

by Alberto Ríos


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556591730
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 04/01/2002
Pages: 110
Sales rank: 846,458
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Alberto Ríos served as the Arizona State Poet, teaches at Arizona State University, and is the author of nine books of poetry, three collections of short stories, an a memoir. His book of poems, The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, was nominated for the National Book Award in Poetry.

Read an Excerpt

Oranges in a Tree


The oranges in a tree won't fly away
If you're quiet. If you're quiet
You can see them in their nests
Loud in the song of their great need,
Mouths tethered to the green beaks
That feed them, hushing their cries,
Pushing their infant noises into color,
That unmistakable sound, orange.
If you make noise, enough of a noise
And not just anything, a noise equal to theirs,
The oranges take flight
In a spin of movement that's dizzying
But which takes weeks.
Some fall to the ground in the excitement,
Falling from the fear of what you've said.
So many fall this way.

But some escape. Some move up,
Racing, onto the avenue of the birds,
Speeding at first, unruly and desperate
To get away. You can't see them,
They're so fast. You can't see them
Until they slow down, these oranges
In the air. They use up their color as food,
Finding places to hide, but they are plain enough
In a new rabbit's eyes, in the faraway
Lights of small towns, in falling stars, in the contrails
In the sky, in sudden sounds, orange sounds.
But those that land inside us, those that find their stopping point
Just where we stand: Those we feel
As flight inside ourselves, as the moment
We leave  how hard it is!
The place where we had been.

As human beings,
We have a long history with birdsWe have eaten them as chickens and pigeons,
Doves and turkeys. We have caged them for amusement,
Made them fight each other for sport.
We have imitated their whistles and used up
The magic in their feathers.
After centuries, some birds have given themselves up
To this fate: They huddle themselves
Tightly as they can into anything but what they are
They began to look like oranges and grapefruit,
Melons and squash. These were the birds
Who gave up flight, who gave up the air and the wandering.
Scientists have traced oranges back to oranges.
They did not know
To look for wings in the folds of the white rind.

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