The Cities Inside Us

Alberto Rios

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Poet Biography

Born of a Mexican father and a British mother in the border city of Nogales, Arizona, Alberto Ríos has lived his life between cultures. He extends the metaphor of in-betweeness to language, claiming that he speaks three languages: Spanish, English, and a combination of the two. This linguistic richness gives Ríos’s verse a touch of magical realism, as in his collection Whispering to Fool the Wind.

Alberto Rios was born on September 18, 1952 and is still alive today. The life he lives between cultures is reflected in his the poem "The Cities Inside Us" through his description of the city as being a sort of melting pot of memories and people you have met.

The Cities Inside Us

We live in secret cities

And we travel unmapped roads.

We speak words between us that we recognize

But which cannot be looked up.

They are our words.

They come from very far inside our mouths.

You and I, we are the secret citizens of the city

Inside us, and inside us

There go all the cars we have driven

And seen, there are all the people

We know and have known, there

Are all the places that are

But which used to be as well. This is where

They went. They did not disappear.

We each take a piece

Through the eye and through the ear.

It’s loud inside us, in here, and when we speak

In the outside world

We have to hope that some of that sound

Does not come out, that an arm

Does not reach out

In place of the tongue.

About This Poem

This poem is about the figurative cities that each of has on the inside. This city is where our past remains a part of us. "Their go all the cars we have driven and seen, there are all the people we know and have known." Here the people we have known throughout lives remain with us, and where what we have in our lives still is still very much alive. The theme of this poem is that our past shapes who we are in the present, and that this internal city shapes who we are externally. "and when we speak in the outside world we have to hope that some of the sound does not come out..." This city inside us is so loud and powerful that it directly shapes what we say and what we do in our every day lives. Through Rios' use of imagery and universally relatable writing style, he is able to capture the vividly describe how our emotions inside us continue to define us every day of our lives
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