Operator's Manual

Christian Anton Gerard


The UPS man should be here by now
with the rotary tool attachment I sent away for by email.

I have tracked the parcel, paced kitchen to the porch,
sat cross-legged in my green vintage La-Z-boy pretending

to read Nabokov's Pnin. The first ten pages
are excellent writing. John Updike is right: ecstatic prose.

Pnin's the kind of guy you drink tequila with and go TP old man Smith's yard
because he's always out in his garage building things
I plan to build when my rotary tool attachment arrives.

My rotary tool is a Dremel.
The attachment is a small router table.

Sure, I've built shelves before (one strong enough to hold a microwave)
but when the router arrives I'll be rounding my edges, grooving and shaping
like a drunk's shadow across alley walls
on the kind of night feeling like Bob Seger had everything right.

I drove once across America with an ex-professional bowler turned bucket-truck mechanic.

Somewhere in Utah's desert he said he met Seger.
In the Seventies. Right after Night Moves' release.
Seger's tour bus caravan stopped for service
at the RV shop where Tom was a shop boy.

Seger burst out his bedroom door.
Whitie-tighties on one half (cowboy hat on the other).
Whiskey in one hand (Marlboro in the other)
raising hell because Tom woke him up.

Maybe Tom's tale was tall, but I doubt it because the story ended with him
asking Bob to have a drink and go bowling.
Sure, Seger said, but stood him up and there was a long awkward silence in the truck
and the desert turned that page. I'm sure

if I can build the Adirondack-style bistro set I've promised my wife
for our already passed anniversary
and the one by twos I plan to use for the seats have ass-in-palm perfectly
routed edges, I'll be the kind of man Seger wouldn't have stood up,
the kind of man Seger would still be talking about in a Nashville studio.

I'll be the man who ran against the wind and won. A router
used to be a ruffian, a plunderer, a rogue or robber, but
in the right hands a word can round and become
that look, the lovin' in my baby's eyes.