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.