Why I swim            In my last past life I was a Shetland Selkie,
                               always amorous, always in love,
                               swimming spirals around my Intended
                               before we coupled. I drowned in desire.

How I talked          In my life before that––a crow, I’m afraid,
                               squawking and cawing my strangled overtures.
                               Nobody liked me: I squawked all the more.
                               I was shot, neck wrung, and hung by my claws from barbed wire.

Why I write            Before that, though, I was the sweetest songbird,
                               vain of my soft twitters. I was trapped
                               by a snare of human hairs, pecking up birdseed,
                               and stripped of my multicolored tail-feathers.

I only walk             One of these lives I’ll learn to run well,          
                               when I’ve grown wirier, lower to the ground,
                               and not afraid of falling. A river could teach me how,
                               or a jaguar, or a jaguar’s prey.

Old acquaintance        That Spotted Towhee in his rufous waistcoat
                               and black hood, showy , sprucing up in the birdbath––
                               now, where did I know him? I can’t quite—ah!
                               I know! Headwaiter at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

A Tip                      He wasn’t me, nor I him, because here I am
                               and there he is. I can nod Hello again,
                               and press a folded bill into his bill, winking,
                               “When you have a good table, there’ll be another like that.”

And who are you?          So close we are in our lives, criss-crossing over
                               each other, speaking loads of languages
                               with the same tongue. Why wouldn’t you want to know
                               every living creature on earth? You might become any of them.