Taking Your Olympic Measure
By Alberto Ríos – 1952-
—Poetry was an Olympic event from 1912-1948.
Think of the records you have held:
For one second, you were the world’s youngest person.
It was a long time ago, but still.
At this moment, you are living
In the farthest thousandth-of-a-second in the history of time.
You have beaten yesterday’s record, again.
You were perhaps the only participant,
But in the race to get from your bedroom to the bathroom,
You win so much, all the time in all things.
Your heart simply beats and beats and beats—
It does not lose, although perhaps one day.
Nevertheless, the lists of firsts for you is endless—
Doing what you have not done before,
Tasting sake and mole, smelling bergamot, hearing
Less well than you used to—
Not all records are for the scrapbook, of course—
Sometimes you are the best at being the worst.
Some records are secret—you know which ones.
Some records you’re not even aware of.
In general, however, at the end of a long day, you are—
Unlikely as it may seem—the record holder of note.
About the Poet
Born in 1952, Alberto Ríos is the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona and the author of many poetry collections, including A Small Story about the Sky (Copper Canyon Press, 2015). In 1981, he received the Walt Whitman Award for his collection Whispering to Fool the Wind (Sheep Meadow Press, 1982). He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2014 to 2020.