Blog Post / Fall 2016 / Issues / Poetry / Poetry 2016 / Volume 47

Bailiwick–Jonathan Andersen

Wheelhouse was never

part of my father’s lexicon

though I do remember him

using the synonym bailiwick;

I think he liked the click at the end,

the slight touch of baritone drama in

Cracking down on guys like that

(referring to a local wife beater)

would definitely be part of my bailiwick.

He said it as if he were expecting a promotion

from truck driver to sheriff. His one

promotion took him from the road

to head shipper at Gorra Bros.

Fruit and Produce Company

where his bailiwick included the juggling

and barking of orders, and solving for

the most efficient weave of truck runs

in which the violent sociopathy

of the Olde Wharf’s head chef had to be

worked around the hair-trigger tempers

of four of his drivers. He choreographed

the hustling shuffle of avocados, corn, plums,

celery, boxes upon waxed boxes of iceberg

lettuce, crates of oranges; he charmed the bitter

secretary, got a few guys to not vote

for Reagan in 1980, to read a few books,

and somehow had the racists and black guys,

the teachers and dropouts all working

together. He told me about how

one day he daintily plucked a dead

tarantula up from between two hands

of bananas and dropped it gently

onto the left shoulder of the boss’s boy

home from college for a summer of work

or pretend work, scaring the bejeezus

out of the kid who leapt yelping, throwing

his box into the air, broccoli falling

(poem/ stanza continued next page)

like ordnance.  It’s one of those stories

that still makes me guffaw and snort

before I remember I’m in the middle of a meeting

with the college president and should be

paying attention. (Pay attention, professor!

my dad snaps, then grins).

Many years on now and I still love

that included in his bailiwick was blowing up

with laughter and scattering across the loading dock

the brilliant system he had so carefully effected there.

 

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