Lost Item: If Found, Please Give Undivided Attention

I am seasonally possessed by the Ghost of Christmas Past, which manifests in high-priority rummaging through low-priority packages of nostalgia my mom occasionally sends me in search of an old cassette recording of my brother and me when we were... one and three? Two and four? I don't know.

It's gray, with a magenta stripe. Unlabeled. I haven't found it in a while. On this tape, if you can find a device on which to play it and turn the volume all the way up, you can hear some authentic early '80s white noise. But beyond that — if you are totally silent — and your ear is pressed to the speaker — and you want it badly enough — you can hear little preliterate me reciting "The Night Before Christmas." Even the deeply confusing "luster of midday to objects below." Even the mysterious "dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly."

As usual, my brother steals the show with his adorable baby babble, but I need you to hear me, which means, I'm sorry to say: no small talk, 100 percent attention on this shitty recording of a kid you didn't know hurdy-gurdying one of the best-known holiday poems of all time.

What's the big deal? Truthfully, nothing — it makes me laugh that I even care — but if you've ever had the experience of hearing yourself before you remember yourself, you know... there's something magical about that. Something enigmatic. Something dust to dust and nevermore. Body replacing itself every seven to 10 years and all. To glimpse that, even for a moment, even if it means forcing a room full of your friends into SILENCE so you can reach backward and forward at once toward an old and a newly imagined "you"— well, that's the spirit now. I'm filled with it. Possessed. It'll pass. 'Til next year. ♦

Ellen Welcker is the author of Ram Hands (Scablands Books, 2016), The Botanical Garden (Astrophil Press, 2010) and several chapbooks, including The Pink Tablet. Her website is ellenwelcker.com.

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