by Molly Peacock
On the same black rubber conveyor belt
where a hasty girl dumped her groceries
then bruised them into plastic bags, a small
thin man placed his fruit and vegetables.
Just where she’d flung her food, his conveyor belt
became a path into a short future.
(He was a very old man.) His oranges
and lettuces, his bell pepper and grapes
seemed to breathe themselves into being, though
they’d been severed, crated, packed, shipped and flown.
But now each seemed to have a heartbeat restored
as the conveyor bumped—his still life finished
in a minute or two—(just long enough
to teach a mess of a girl staring back
at his living collage a way to live).
He’d brought a wicker basket, a thing that
would decompose, unlike her plastic bags
sulking in a dump for five centuries.
The rinds, stems, vines, leaves and peelings would de-
compose, too, though he’d posed them and she had
absorbed that, beginning the assemblage
of her adult life. He was her stranger,
never again seen—a deep, brief parent
who vanished as parents must, in order
to remain inside us, broken down in-
to elements—their next life.
— from Juniper Volume 2, Issue 2