“The Plumber’s Nightmare” by David Wagoner

David Wagoner


It was supposed to be open,
but it’s shut. The handle says Hot,
but it’s cold. It was supposed to be
open all the time, but something
is turning it off and on
and off. It was guaranteed
and certified to be solid,
sealed, and leak-proof,
but it’s leaking. It’s cracked
and porous, and someone forgot
to check the easily read
punched date on the service
calendar wired to the neck
of the only switch in full view
of the owner of the building
who is watching and lamenting
what he thought was meant to be
the foundation of running water
he could still almost believe in,
including you and yours,
so what can you do now
but look for the main valve
to shut down everything
connected to the rain?

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012


David Wagoner: “My father was his own home handyman during the Depression, and he wasn’t always successful at it, as our frequently flooded basement often proved. I tried to do the same during my early married years. I sympathize with plumbers, and this poem came out of those feelings.” (web)

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