To Mars from Arizona
Saturday mornings were science fiction—
That is, on that day anything was possible.
We didn’t have to go to the movies for that,
Though when we did, we were introduced to ourselves
More than anything. Ourselves in rockets,
Ourselves taking chances, ourselves speaking to the universe.
Outside of the movies, we were still in them—
Our bikes were our rockets, our submarines, our jets.
But mostly, and first, our bikes were our horses
In this childhood West, a loyal, red Western Flyer
Taking me everywhere, up and down, fast and slow.
Only later did I understand it was my own legs
That did it all. My own legs and my arms to steer,
My own small, mighty lungs to shout—
A shout that would later become a song.
When they weren’t horses, when my legs were tired,
When the shouts calmed down into just talking,
We bike-riders would sit, and find in that talking
The gold we had been looking for, though we didn’t know it.
The gold was made of plans for Saturdays still to come—
We each had different ideas, but we all had them,
Speaking them confidently as if we were lions,
Deep-voiced and sure even in that quietude.
What would happen next was far away,
But even as we rested, something in us knew
We would catch the future no matter how fast it ran.
Copyright © 2023 by Alberto Ríos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 27, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
“This is a simple testament to our childhood and adult imaginations both, looking at how time allows us to see the same thing in more than one way. I grew up on the border, literally, but it was never one thing. This poem helps me to understand that the border wasn’t simply about geography, but about the border between today and tomorrow; between what we were doing and what we were going to be doing; the certainty of that hopeful and creative and powerful sensibility—‘I’ was in harmony with the bravado of ‘I am.’”