Bio Note: I am an Alaskan poet who currently serves as the Mat-Su Vice President of the Alaska Writers Guild. I am also a teacher and "former" journalist with an undergraduate degree in English and Japanese Studies. In addition to Verse-Virtual, my work has recently been published in The Ekphrastic Review ("Open Mind," Oct. 17, 2020) and The Cabinet of Heed ("Someone Else's Cat," Issue 39). I have also published several books through my own company, Red Sweater Press, and I am preparing to publish an illustrated collection of short stories (my first) in the spring of 2021.
My two-year-old niece exclaiming, KETCHUP I WANT KETCHUP in her sleep at the drive-thru gives me hope that each of our priorities will surface at just the right moment and our most prescient needs will be met, even when we are no longer awake to voice them.
How Not to Assemble an Office Chair
First, take everything out of the box right before you have to teach English to a bossy, six-year-old Chinese girl. Spend enough time laying out the guts that you have to rush to the computer to make it to class on time. Work. After the allotted time is up, focus on the different-but-similar task of constructing something concrete out of unfamiliar parts. Don’t wait for your spouse to get home. Next, look in every bag and fold for the instructions — except for the one they’re in. Start snapping pieces into place, until you realize you missed a spot. Find instructions. Then, flip to a page in the booklet that skips what (you think) you’ve already accomplished. Check the numbers on the screws, match “FRONT” to “FRONT,” but don’t read the part about keeping things loose until everything’s in place. Don’t pay any attention to the fact that the backrest and the seat were supposed to be attached to each other before you secured the arms and the heavy, metal plate to the bottom of the chair. Realize your “mistake.” As reason begins to rear its wise head, push any thought of undoing the work you’ve done out of your mind, and forge ahead with what you’ve got. Flip the leather cushion onto a makeshift table devised of barstools you and your poor spouse sometimes use for eating dinner. Slide the backrest, upside down, into “place” beneath the seat, using your feet to leverage the thing to the right height, since the barstools aren’t low enough. Consider, for a moment, you’re doing this the hard way. Then seize the Allen wrench, and repeat righty-tighty, left-loosey as you bend almost double to thread each screw into each hole in each side of the upside-down chair. Twist and bend until your neck aches and your head spins and sweat drips down your nose and finally, it holds together on its own. Use the corner of your three-hundred-dollar smartphone in its twenty-two-dollar case to hammer the plastic screw caps flush with the plastic arm supports, because what else could it possibly be good for? After wiping the sweat from your brow and attempting to stretch the kink from your spine, heave the chair off the barstools and set it as gently as possible onto the gas lift apparatus attached to the rolling base, only to realize the precariousness of its position. Ignore all the scenes of people injuring themselves by falling off (or through) poorly assembled office chairs running through your head and sit right down on that bad boy to lock the pole in the hole. Finally, and with much difficulty, roll the chair (with you in it) out of the inconveniently tight space in which you decided to assemble your brand new office chair and behind your desk across the room, just as your live-in helper returns. Don’t show them this poem.
©2020 Caitlin Buxbaum
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell him or her. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is the beginning of community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL