Syndic No. 37 ~ 10th Anniversary Special Issue Cover
Syndic Literary Journal

Syndic No.37 ~ Terence Cannon

Poem of the banana machine

San Francisco waterfront 1963

By Santa Monica Poet/Writer  Terence Cannon

Out of the hatches, rubber loops lift
banana boxes fast as the downhatch
men can sling them in. Here
on the pier we see there’s rubber
 sleight of hand. The boxes . . .
Platano de Guatemala (subsidiary of
United Fruit) . . . slung like dead
bodies on a ferris wheel,
blunder to the rollers and the hands.

One loop; two boxes, then another,
You’re part of the machine. From
rollers to the moving belt the man’s
the joint. He hoists them past the gap
but quick before the next loop lurches,
flaps under. They’re not boxes now,
but shapes, delusions, weighing 30 pounds,
force on the hands. Then one gets stuck,
blocked by the box before it. Steel fist in a
rubber glove comes down, you hit the
pedal late, it’s split and wedged,
bananas spread like busted fingers,
white oozing out between the gears
and broken yellow skin. Before
the walking-boss climbs on, they
shut the master switch; your foot’s
a brown banana to this belt that
would spread out marrow like
banana guts. Ten minutes work
with knife and crowbar; break
for us. We shake our heads clear
of falling boxes, folding belts
like South of Market drunks (Late afternoon,
some cartons jam not on their own.)

It’s cleared, the quiet time is mashed.
In the blue shadow of the shed the men
return to the machine. The counter
shows five hundred ten: ten
thousand more….

 

Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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November 2020
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