Daily Archives: March 1, 2019

Case Studies In Management

From 1989…?


At the pre-shift meeting,
our ops manager
talks down
to the crew boss.

He repeats himself often,

speaks loudly,
pronounces Namthavone’s name wrong twice
and in two different ways.

He explains to me later
that he understands these people,
thanks to two tours he did in country.

“I had a lot of fun there,” he tells me.
I say nothing to this.

I am remembering
that Namthavone
once told a story in ESOL class
about his tattoos –

the script that runs
around his body,
up and down the arms,
up through his hairline at the back of his neck.

He said they date back to
when he fought in the Highlands
for the CIA against the Communists.

He said they were charms against bullets, knives;
to avoid being seen
by those who would do him


At dinner,
Larry explains
how Spanish women
are passive by nature.

Again I say nothing,
recalling Lourdes and Santa
after second shift last Thursday,
standing toe to toe with boxcutters
on the median strip just off the factory property,
mad eyes hidden
in third-shift darkness.

Lourdes had just told Santa
that she was sleeping
with her man Ruben.

Santa replied
that must be where
he’d caught the drip.

I see them raise their arms
as the first cruisers arrive
and scatter the watchers.

It took three cops to tear
Santa from Lourdes,

four to hold Lourdes back
once that was done.

From where I sit tonight,
I can see the women seated
on either side of Ruben,

still bandaged, not speaking,

forcing alternate bites
of their cooking on him,

re-drawing the rules of engagement.


Daniel Opong walks into work
and announces that he entered this country
under a false name
but now has established legal residency

and after ten years working here as
Daniel Opong,
wishes to be called
by his real name, Anthony Otoo.

“Who do they think they are?”
says Pauline, our personnel manager.
“That’s the third one this month. How dare they?”

I am told to fire him for falsifying his application.
I refuse. I suggest that she would do the same thing
if she were facing whatever
Daniel faced back home.

I lose. I am reprimanded.
He is fired anyway, nods when I tell him
about the personnel office’s decision,
then shakes my hand.

I apologize.

“You do not have to be sorry,
because I’m not sorry”,
he tells me
as he leaves.
“I would do it again.”

I am hoping I would.


Araminta tells me
that she used to hate
having me for a boss,
but now she thinks I’m ok.

I don’t know what I’m doing differently these days,
and I tell her that.
She doesn’t know either,
but she’s sure she’s right.

I tell her
I’m not sure I agree with her,
I think I keep quiet a lot more often
than I should.

She looks at me
for a long minute,
saying nothing.


The management team always leaves after everyone else is gone.
On a Friday night, we usually head to McGuire’s for a beer,
McGuire’s because we’re sure not to see
any of our employees there.

When I drive home from the bar later that night,
the apartments that line the road to the factory
are still lit and raucous.
There’s a party going on somewhere.

I recognize a few of the cars outside from the factory lot.

I don’t know who lives here.

Sometimes I think
none of us knows
anyone who lives here.