John is a nonviolence organizer,
a saintly elder unaware
of the tranquil nimbus I picture
around his beaming countenance.
We order Fair Trade coffee
and conscientious entrees.
We talk ahimsa and
folding chair rental rates.
He offers praise I squirm to deny.
Food arrives, his a sandwich,
mine a heap of giant plants
resistant to cutlery.
I bend each leaf in half,
listen, keep quiet.
John takes small bites,
wipes his mouth before each insight.
Like a mulching machine
loading a tree branch,
I shove a forkful in
just as an earnest question is asked.
John politely awaits my answer.
Random as street crime,
the hulking leaf attacks,
springs open on the way to my throat,
triggers a gag reflex.
Reflexes do not respect manners,
do not honor saints.
Eyes widened in horror,
my mouth flings open and
the entire leaf emerges, top speed,
from my gaping maw to the table.
Gag-related tears in my eyes,
gag-related saliva on my lower lip.
In a testament to deep compassion
found in the peace movement,
John doesn't bolt from the table.
As if the question's wording
caused me discomfort,
he simply says,
"Let me rephrase that."