SPOTLIGHT: Reverse Into Space by J. Archer Avary


she went vegan
after the documentary
fed up with modern farming
all that needless cruelty
she had enough
it was a decision I understood
and even applauded
in the beginning
before she became militant

she invited us over
for a vegan barbecue
and as supportive friends, we agreed
because you don’t need meat
to have a good time
it was blatant evangelism, an attempt
to win the hearts and minds
of the unconverted
those of us yet to believe
that meat is murder

the spread was glorious:
a rainbow of legumes in brine
marinated cauliflower steaks on the grill
oh the things she could do
with an artichoke heart
as we basked in the tiki torchlight
she preached the vegan gospel
‘I don’t even miss cheese,’ she said
‘because halloumi is vegan’
we all gazed at shoelaces
no one told her 


it must be some kind
of sick conspiracy

how the aisles are too narrow
for two trolleys to pass

how greek yoghurt is in a different place
each time I visit the store

how the perfect avocado eludes me
despite my pressure tests

how these jars of sauerkraut are so huge
when I only need a spoonful

but nothing is more sadistic
than how Phil Collins songs are always

blasting from the tannoy
and how I spend the rest of the day

humming sussudio
this can’t be coincidence


bananas were immensely popular
shoppers went for them
like locusts
stripping them off the shelves
in bunches and bunches
much faster than my hands
could replenish stock

I was reallocated to the onion bin
where I peeled away brittle
outer layers
revealing what’s underneath
shiny new skins

have you smelled a rotten potato?
I have, and trust me
if you did you’d never forget it

then came the season’s first strawberries
stacked high on pallets
in cold storage
they made me drive the forklift truck
and though I tried my best
the pallet crashed to the ground
spilling all the berries

inappropriate women occasionally
asked about cucumbers
like, “do you
know where I can find one
bigger than this?”
wink-wink, nudge-nudge

the outdoor garden centre was best
watering hanging baskets
flats of ageratum
pretending I knew which plants
thrived in bright sun
and which preferred shade
while I listened to my loud radio

the easy times never last for long
I requested time off
and they told me
to take all the time I needed
but please don’t come back


it’s been said that
what’s on the inside
is what counts

but that
avoids the
toughest questions
about how
what’s on the inside
got there
in the first place

the chicken and egg
may be
a troublesome
puzzle for the weak
of mind

but hasn’t it
also been said that
to acknowledge
one’s own weaknesses
requires a different
kind of strength?  


we eat lunch
in sunshine
our dietary needs have diverged, yet we are here together
masticating these vegetables while we indulge in
marital banter

my problem is too much fat
it has congregated around my face and belly
I look like an obese chipmunk, I say
and like a good wife
she disagrees

she has sworn off carbohydrates
she pushes slabs of avocado around her plate with a fork
she dreams of creamy potato soup with crusty buttered bread
she absent-mindedly rips the stems from spinach leaves
because she hates the way they taste

she can’t understand how I put up with celery
‘all those strings,’ she says, ‘don’t they get stuck in your teeth?’
but that never bothered me:
my mom used to put peanut butter on celery sticks with raisins
she called this delicacy ‘ants on a log’
a childhood favourite

this is the same woman who instilled in me an intrinsic fear
of unwashed produce
bogeymen like e. coli and salmonella and trichinosis
to this day I wash my vegetables
with religious fervour

I have no beef with celery, but explain me this:
how peanut butter adheres securely
to literally everything
especially the roofs of mouths
but refuses to stick to
wet celery? 


they say
this generation
is soft
so many are
slicing open
their own hands
when cutting
an avocado.

but is
that a function
of the way
were raised?
not the
even though
factory farms
divert water
from small
which can be

I digress.
shouldn’t we
cut them
some slack?
this cohort
they’re calling
generation Z
is growing up
in an era
where knives
are sharper
than ever. 


give us timeless thrills
gap years in Europe and Asia
let us see with innocent eyes
how the other half lives

hours wasted in transit
easily bored of the airport bar
we look for kicks in duty-free
doused in fine perfume

strangers become friends
we live out of these backpacks
freewheeling in the meanwhile
until we settle down

and when the era’s over
memories fade like old paint
we develop expensive tastes
a thirst for the finer things


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