Gary Soto

Country: United States
Language(s): English


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.

Fruits of the World

Just before lunch, and just because,
My mother brought a belt across my legs.
Later, I hobbled to the front yard, where at the curb,
I wet my wounds with spit and ate a plum.
I imagined the sky falling, but first a robin’s egg
And peaches with their furry bellies fell,
Mullberries with worms at their center,
Plus hail, God’s coldest tears.

Where was the bearded apostle to save me?
Where was a haloed saint with a staff made of sugar?
Before dinner, a hanger fell across my arms and legs
Just because, and for dessert I was handed
A slice of cantaloupe. Where was that Biblical garden?
Where was a jolly uncle? I ate my slice sobbing,
And walked down the alley until I found myself
Under an apricot tree, its limbs thrown up
Just like the arms of Jesus on the cross.
I climbed the tree. The fruit was ripe,
And fell almost noiselessly when I scampered higher,
My feet like spurs against the limbs.
This only made me sadder. In the next yard,
My neighbor was chasing a chicken with a hoe
Just because, and two of his children
Huddled close to each other on the steps,
A pair of watermelon rinds eaten to the green,
The sweetness long gone.