American Life in Poetry: Column 592

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

There are dozens of folk tales in which someone is sent on an errand and it gets derailed in one way or another. Here Alberto Ríos, who lives in Arizona, gives us a fresh one from Sonora, from his book from Copper Canyon press, A Small Story About the Sky.

One Thursday Afternoon: Magdalena, Sonora, 1939

Baltazár went to the market and came home with a parrot.
Thursdays in this town were always just so:
 
What should have been four big potatoes and some white cheese
Came home in a cage filled with green feathers and two wings.
 
The mathematics of exchange in this world, the stomach or the heart—
Which of these, how much of one for the other,
 
Friday would have to sort out. On a Thursday afternoon
The world sang, a full dinner this way coming through the air.
 


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Alberto Ríos, “One Thursday Afternoon: Magdalena, Sonora, 1939,” (A Small Story About the Sky, Copper Canyon Press, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Alberto Ríos and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.