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In My Next Life Let Me Be a Tomato by Natasha Rao

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In My Next Life Let Me Be a Tomato
Natasha Rao

lusting and unafraid. In this bipedal incarnation
I have always been scared of my own ripening,
mother standing outside the fitting room door.
I only become bright after Bloody Mary’s, only whole
in New Jersey summers where beefsteaks, like baubles,
sag in the yard, where we pass down heirlooms
in thin paper envelopes and I tend barefoot to a garden
that snakes with desire, unashamed to coil and spread.
Cherry Falls, Brandywine, Sweet Aperitif, I kneel
with a spool, staking and tying, checking each morning
after last night’s thunderstorm only to find more
sprawl, the tomatoes have no fear of wind and water,
they gain power from the lightning, while I, in this version
of life, retreat in bed to wither. In this life, rabbits
are afraid of my clumsy gait. In the next, let them come
willingly to nibble my lowest limbs, my outstretched
arm always offering something sweet. I want to return
from reincarnation’s spin covered in dirt and
buds. I want to be unabashed, audacious, to gobble
space, to blush deeper each day in the sun, knowing
I’ll end up in an eager mouth. An overly ripe tomato
will begin sprouting, so excited it is for more life,
so intent to be part of this world, trellising wildly.
For every time in this life I have thought of dying, let me
yield that much fruit in my next, skeleton drooping
under the weight of my own vivacity as I spread to take
more of this air, this fencepost, this forgiving light.


In my next life, I want to be less sad. More loving. I want to be less afraid of what the world brings and run towards all my tomorrows with open arms saying, of course, of course. I want to be someone who yearns less for death—someone who is not in a hurry to leave this earth. Someone who has more strength to try harder.

Times when I don’t have enough money, I will often eat salted eggs and tomatoes. Scoop them up with leftover rice and eat with my hands. Times when I couldn’t even buy tomatoes, I have thought, often with despair, what has become of myself. In my next life, I want to be less hungry. Maybe even in this life.

Do you think we all return to this earth. How many of us do you think become stars. Or dogs. Or songs.

In my next life—if there is the possibility of journeying to the Next—I hope the universe finds me necessary. Even if I was an onion. Or a grasshopper. Or a dishrag. Or the one that wraps my arms around you at night as you fall asleep.


This poem appeared in Latitude by Natasha Rao, published by American Poetry Review, 2021. Shared here with profound gratitude.


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