Poetry 2011 / Volume 42

C. Bowen, Plumber — Paul Hostovksy

I like this guy
before we even meet.
He’s the only one
who called me back, and then
he wipes his feet
for a very long time
on the mat
before coming inside
with a little bow
and setting our bravely
for the upstairs bathroom
a few steps behind me
like a lieutenant
or a constable. I look up
‘meticulous’ after he leaves
and am startles to find
it comes from fear
in Latin. Because he seemed so
fearless, knowledgeable,
mindful of the whole long
history of flood. He was
a very good listener. “It could be
the spindle in your shower valve,
or it could be something
in the drain assembly,” he said
as he drew the bath,
then drew a wrench
from his plumber’s belt
and climbed into my tub. His entry
in the yellow pages
was the humblest
of all the plumber ads
with their splashy logos
and trite slogans. It read, simply:
C. Bowen, Plumber,
with a number
that rolled off my fingers
like an arpeggio.
He nailed it in under
an hour. And his bill
which has come in today’s mail
like a coda
is simply too beautiful
to contemplate.
Honda Pavoratti
 after Hoagland

My Aunt Hannah loved Pavarotti
so when she came to Boston for the second
opinion on the leg, he was belting it out
on the tape deck in my car parked live
outside the diabetes hospital. Live parking
is when your body waits in your car
the way a soul waits in a body idling
in a hospital. And when the doctor said
she would have to lose the leg or else
we would surely lose Aunt Hannah and that
was his expert opinion for which he surely
would charge an arm and a leg, she looked
like a book you can’t read because it’s closed
and leaning its stiff and fraying spine against
the closed book of your cousin walking slowly
beside her toward your car. So what I did was
I cranked up the volume because I knew
my Aunt Hannah loved Pavarotti, but after
she’d lowered the wreck-in-progress of her
body into the front seat, she angrily clicked
the music off. And the aria died right there
in the dead air of my car. So I put it in drive and
we went screeching out of there without a word.

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