I pull the old cord from the base, its black cloth rotted from the wires, because my mother says this brass desk lamp belonged to her great-grandmother, who kept it on the table beside the bed to which she was confined, her ancient bones breaking and rebreaking. At eighty-five, she instructed my mother, age six: Now, dearie, in the top drawer beneath my underthings you’ll find some pliers. . . . I need replacement parts and lack the words — have only round piece, curved piece, thing. My mother offers me a yellowed repair manual from 1963, its diagrams as intricate as a body. I learn socket shell, harp holder, tube nut; I learn to tie the underwriter’s knot, looping the new cord through itself as insurance against fire, electrocution. My mother married, had two children, got divorced; she used to put the kids to bed then take a sledgehammer to a kitchen wall that no longer pleased her. Waking at night to the sound of demolition, I learned the breaking down and subsequent repairing of the world. In the morning, dust everywhere, no breakfast, light in a different place.