The Poet as Plumber

I don’t mean to brag with a title like this, but I did fix our kitchen sink this week. The title sounded too good not to use, and what I really want to do, which is one part of this blog, is just to say that poets are people, too.

Last month as we were about to go on a little trip to see family (maybe our only chance to do that for awhile, even if it wasn’t without risk), I heard a crack when turning off the hot water while washing dishes. When I went to turn it back on to rinse something, water came out of the handle, not the spigot. That’s never a good sign.

By holding the handle down and using cold water, I made it through the last of the breakfast dishes: water came out the hot side if I didn’t hold it down when the cold was running. Shutting off the water to the faucets under the sink seemed to do the trick, so with a little trepidation, we were able to leave on our trip, knowing I’d have a job to do as soon as we got home. Actually, I waited until the next day, since there had been no catastrophic leak while we were away and we could use the sink in the laundry room as a stop-gap.

Replacing the kitchen faucet proved to be more of a job that expected, though. There were several complicating factors, including that the fittings our countertop installer had used to attach the faucet had rusted. As anyone who’s worked on a undermount sink can tell you, there’s not much room to maneuver under there. Much banging, cursing, and destroying the old faucet ensued before I finally got it out, but I had already determined it would need to be replaced, not repaired.

Then I had to figure out how to attach the new faucet, since the connectors were too short, which is probably why the previous faucet installation was so weird. I found marble countertop adapters that looked like they would work, though our counter isn’t actually marble, it’s a composite made of recycled newspaper, so it isn’t quite as thick as marble. Back at Lowe’s, I found a couple of washers that had large enough inner holes to go over the adapter (1 3/8 inch, if you want to know). My last trip to the store was right a closing time, but by time for bed, the faucet was fixed.

Unfortunately, in the process, I decided I should replace the under-sink water filter, too, since it had been at least 6 months, probably longer, and was overdue. Even more unfortunately, the O-ring on the filter housing decided to give out, so it leaked everywhere no matter how much I tightened it after replacing the filter. That model is discontinued, and though I could have ordered a part, no one had one I could get that day, so another trip to the store, and I came home with a brand new filter assembly, which then had to be installed. More fun ensued, trying to get at the screws on the bracket which were in a nearly impossible location. Who knew that plumbers also have to be contortionists?

Will there be a poem that comes out of all of this? I seriously doubt it. But even poets have real lives, and some of us are brave or foolhardy enough to attempt our own repairs. At least I have most of tools I needed and could improvise anything I didn’t have — vice grips are great, if somewhat destructive alternatives when you need something to turn a stubbornly rusted-on nut. A hammer and a big screwdriver will work if you don’t have a cold chisel. And the end result is a new and much nicer faucet with a new water filter for which they ought to have parts for at least a few more years!

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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