EASY, I SAID

I had great plans
for the day, a simple project,
easy install said the instructions
and an hour in, nothing working.

Of course it was a weekend
so I called for help and
the professional worked
another two hours before
announcing nothing doing.

We concluded the product
was dead on arrival, as were
the plans I had made
for the bulk of thd day,

but there was the cost
of the service call, of course
at weekend surcharge rates,
to make the failure more painful.

AS INSTRUCTED

As I was leaving the surgical center
they handed me the sheet
with my post-procedure instructions,
a sign of faith perhaps, that I
was sufficiently out of the sedation
to know what I was given.

I tucked them in my pocket, anxious
to get home, to get coffee
and the food I’d been denied
since midnight the night before
just in case something went wrong
and they had to put me fully under.

I did get relief from my pain
but I tossed and turned in bed
my sleep coming in fits and starts,
for no apparent reason, and when
I read the instructions this morning
I checked off the side effect insomnia
and gave a half check to irritability.

A MATTER OF TIME

It was only
a matter of time,
and the time has come
when the Chinese
would abandon
the time honored
“please to be
placing the Tab A
withinside the slot
on Part E,”
and instead
merely show
undecipherable
pictures of parts,
so that with
but a single
set of instructions
they can frustrate
buyers in all nations.

MANUAL LABOR

(Instructions for Mourning a Marriage)

It didn’t come with an instruction manual,
no simple, poorly translated diagrams
telling me to “be inserting Tab A
into the Slot B,” none anywhere to be found.
But I was young, and didn’t worry,
despite entreaties to get help first
before beginning the intricate task of assembly.
I laid out all of the parts carefully
until it looked about right, and made
my own checklist, noting each part in detail,
smug when I found that all were present
including a couple that had no discernable purpose.
I cobbled together a small toolkit,
things that looked like they might work
and set about the laborious task of building it.
It went together fairly easily, logical connections
made, wires twisted and wrapped in small bits
of duct tape, until it took shape and function.
I reached out gingerly for the starter switch
and depressed it with great trepidation.
It began to hum, its gears crawled to life,
almost meshing seamlessly, with only
the occasional groan, shake and click
from some dark corner of the machine.

For some time it worked reasonably well,
with occasional starts and stops,
but nothing a little oil didn’t correct.
Every now and again I would find the odd part
left in its wake, and for a while
I would put them in a drawer in my desk.
But they grew too numerous, and since it
kept sputtering along, I slowly discarded them.
Now I can’t tell when it happened, since
I long ago stopped checking it each morning,
but one morning recently I turned to it
and it sat, refusing to move, static.
I pushed and prodded it. It sat.
I changed its battery. It shuddered and sat.
I took it to the repair shop and they stared
until one of them laughed and said,
“There is absolutely nothing we can do, we have
no idea how it worked this long, all we can say
is give it a proper burial, and next time
do yourself a favor and read the fuckin’ manual.”

First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008).