Russell Coldicutt


The day I stood in

Sometimes I stand in for a lot of people.
There was that time my friend forgot about a doctor’s appointment
and so I spent all day covering their shift at the orchard
packing kiwifruit until my fingers bled.
              Did you know every plaster at a kiwifruit factory has a barcode?
              You need to issue it out and then scan it when you leave
              that way no plasters end up in the boxes of fruit.
But if you’re just standing in
it’s a lot harder to be held accountable for your actions.

They made me put my hair into a bun
and then trap it in a net.
              It was nothing like how I imagined
              ‘working at the orchard’ would look.

I thought I could let down my locks
              and walk barefoot in the vineyards.
I might’ve picked some fruit occasionally,
              but only after I’d woven a flax basket to put them in.
We’d all strip down, and I’d no longer be a girl.
              We’d all be one: the kiwifruit people.
Sometimes we all need a reminder that a kiwifruit factory
                                                      is not a nudist colony.

Of course, it wasn’t just me
              everyone had their hair in a net.
Just like the kiwifruit being packed into boxes,
              we had to pack our round and hairy selves
              into a hot stuffy tin shed in the middle of a heat wave.
I imagined wearing a kiwifruit skin.
I’d be just like Sir Thomas More in his hair shirt,
but more fruity. In some respects, More was a lot like a kiwifruit.
              When I told my friend that, they said ‘I guess
              stand-up comedy is just as often stand-in comedy’.

I couldn’t look at a kiwifruit for weeks after standing-in,
but when I finally plucked the courage
to sink my teeth into one
              my tongue encountered tiny hairs
              stuck to stale glue.
I chose to swallow the plaster.
Maybe it will stand-in for a memory.



Russell Coldicutt is a Ph.D. candidate at Duke University. His poems have appeared in Hue & Cry, Cordite, and Mimicry.