Welcome Home, Children
In the early spring I get together with all the people I've been
in my past lives. We sit around the table at my grandfather's
farmhouse—mashed potatoes, creamed peas, cornbread. There's
the Confederate colonel with his mustache and battlefield odor.
The medieval peasant from Portugal with insects in her hair. The
Irish boy who died from the fever at nine. There's the patient wife
of the fishmonger. The petty thief from Cathay who's already
stuffed his pockets with my grandmother's paperweights. My
favorite is the Hindu monk. His orange robes. The sacred paint
across his forehead. He's never reconciled his lust for women and
steals glances at the dancer from Babylon—my first life. Her long
dark hair. The thin veils draped over her shoulders. She loves
to lean across the table for the marmalade, exposing her breasts
for him to see. After dinner she excuses herself and walks into
the garden. He follows. I'm not sure if it's just a natural kind of
thing… One incarnation of mine seducing another…Or an act
so vile even Narcissus would have gagged.
"Welcome Home, Children" by David Shumate from The Floating Bridge. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission.