untitled1-from-ten-winter-tools-1973.jpg!Large copy
How I Fix Things
by Robert Bensen

I buy tools. Then I set them by the things to fix.
A ruler and hammer beneath the picture yet unhung.
Screwdriver by the door with the stuck-out handle.
Little brown bag of screws by a hinge that wobbles.
My wife says things will not fix themselves, but how else will they learn?
Paint is thin-skinned, so say nothing to it,
but leave a brush nearby for quiet contemplation.
Give the Honda a wrench, one for the road, so to speak.

A step that may save everyone time is to exercise
what I like to call “proximate preventive repair.”
In other words, set materials out to fix what isn’t broken yet.
Let them see what you have in store.
Thus warned, a lot of things stay unbroken,
though some enjoy the attention needing repair brings.
We know things break for any number of reasons.
Breakage enhances individuality, as in kintsugi,
or expresses dissatisfaction with your prior actions.
The pie plate in three equal pieces has broken for the third time.
Rebreakage is a clear omen. The fault may lie in the glue I used,
so I’ll leave several other kinds for consideration
while I face my failure as a kintsugi artist-in-waiting.

Whatever the situation, do not rush.
Fix something too soon, it breaks again and worse, just to show you.
A plaster crack I fixed too soon
now resembles, oh, I don’t know, Idaho.
The battery in the basement goes in the motorcycle in the garage, but not yet.
One day I’ll fire the bike up and discover all the things with it
that have gone wrong waiting for their turn to work.

Even this poem, if not utterly broken, is not entirely sound.
Taking my own advice, I’m leaving it in this condition
for the time being, possibly for good.
We’re always open to suggestion, this poem and I.
But that could just make it worse.

IMAGE: Untitled (from Ten Winter Tools) by Jim Dine (1973).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem began with a conversation in a grocery store between me and a financial advisor, whose husband follows the same tried and true methods of home repair.  A few days later, I thought some benefit to other inept homeowners might come from writing these few precepts.  Blind to the error of my wicked ways, nevertheless, I persisted.  I committed this poem—rather an earlier, even more flawed version—in my book called Before, published in 2019 by Five Oaks Press. Suffice it to say, having published this book, the editor quit and closed the press, and began anew under a different name:  Formal Feeling.  I can’t blame her.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Bensen is a poet, essayist, teacher, editor, and publisher in Upstate New York.  Most recent among six collections of poetry are Before and Orenoque, Wetumka & Other Poems (Bright Hill Press). Poetry and literary essays have appeared in AGNI, Berfrois, Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, La presa, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Wales, and elsewhere. He taught writing and literature and directed the writing programs at Hartwick College (1978-2017).  He conducts the community-based poetry workshop “Seeing Things” at Bright Hill Press and Literary Center (Treadwell NY). He is the founding editor of two literary presses, the Red Herring Press and Woodland Arts Editions. Find more of his work at robertbenson.com.