Economies Of Scale
By B.K. Fischer
You’ll get used to it, Val. Count containers
to find your way back, because nouns can be
mass or count, and some can be either—
sin, a sin, crime, a crime, death, a death.
Windward, leeward, athwart, abaft—nouns
occur in all environments, above or below
the waterline or Plimsoll mark, the depth
to which a ship can be safely loaded in a given
season or locale. Count the sonsup to three—
turns out their names are Stu, Howie, and Jason—
count 67 souls on board: original crew, youth,
merchant marines, engineers, a few tunnel guys
from the Port Authority, fishers, builders,
craftspeople, pilgrims: Roy’s their man who
had keys to warehouses—bullets, millet, rice,
protein powder, beef jerky, canola oil, nails.
Once you could call it a bareboat charter,
Post-Panamax with hydraulic rams and gantry
cranes, a quarter mile bow to stern, powered
by bunker fuel: what part of speech is somehow?
This ship’s been through Suez, Guangzhou,
Singapore, Durban, Le Havre, Shanghai, flying
its flag of convenience for rent. In the heyday
of intermodal freight up to 10,000 containers
a year slid overboard in storms: a hundred gross
Tri-Metal Ancient Healing Power Bangles, 3000 Pac-Man ponchos on the sea floor.
The engine thrums through every pore, judders
the soles of your feet to the roots of your hair.
Step out for some air—containerization
divides the risk and limits the loss—auto-
motive to tilapia to zucchini, bay to bay,
tier to tier, starboard to port, let’s say
I love you a bushel and a peck: proportionate
savings in shipping cost are gained by
an increased level of production. Go on—
the gangway has 88 steps, like a piano,
and they drove school buses into the hold
in the dark, fitted them with bunks. Firms
cannot realize economies of scale in perpetuity.
You do what you have to do. Make rooms
in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.