In honor of the 102nd Anniversary of Arizona’s statehood, Alberto Alvero Rios, the state’s inaugural Poet Laureate, was invited to speak at a ceremony at the Arizona State Capitol Museum on Friday, February 14th, 2014. To the small audience gathered in the Capitol’s intimate Historic Senate Chamber, Rios presented a new poem written especially for the occasion. He has graciously allowed us to reprint that poem here.
Statehood Day in Arizona
by Alberto Álvaro Ríos
School is that place where dreams
Are the curriculum.
When I was at Coronado Elementary School
In Nogales, in the 1950s
We stood in front of the school every morning
To say the Pledge of Allegiance.
But just before spring, one day stood out,
And always arrived in a sparkling of red dust:
Valentine’s Day. What you did was very clear
In an elementary school—we pasted together big
Paper pocket hearts, to hang on the front of our desks
In desperate hopes of hearing from a secret admirer,
A note mixed in with the small cards and candy hearts.
But alas, no note. The day itself, however, brought
Its own news, and cheered us up: It was Arizona’s
Birthday, and so we did what anyone would do.
After the Pledge of Allegiance, we sang
Happy birthday Arizona, as loud as we could.
It wasn’t quite the same thing as Valentine’s Day,
But it gave us something to count on,
Enough to raise our voices high, enough
To make on this day this world a better place.