Reincarnation

by Gary Soto

If you loved your cat, you’ll become a cat.
If you loved your books, you’ll become a book,
If you loved soup, you’ll become soup.
This is an Eastern religion.

(True, I’ve hugged my cats and books,
And rowed many a large spoon through menudo.)

If you l0ved your wife, you’ll become that wife.
You can’t become yourself, whom you hate
In mirrors or the convex shine of prison ladles.
But if you loved yourself,
Then would you return as you were,
So likeable in your birthday tie and retirement ring?

Religion kills me.
My altar is stacked beer cans,
The cigarette an incense
Of ungodly times.
For my reincarnation, I climb out of bed
With my old lady and book, with my cat in the corner,
His arched back mad with the electricity of lice.
I want my coffee, my mouth pleating when I sip.
Now bring on a bowl of menudo,
My ancestral soup, my Sunday-morning cure,
This slaughter of tripas
Still full of fight when my jaws clamp
And I choke them all down.

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