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  • The Puzzle Is No Puzzle

  • A card table in the library stands ready 
  • To receive the puzzle which keeps never coming. 
  • Daylight shines in or lamplight down 
  • Upon the tense oasis of green felt. 
  • Full of unfulfillment, life goes on, 
  • Mirage arisen from time’s trickling sands 
  • Or fallen piecemeal into place: 
  • German lesson, picnic, see-saw, walk 
  • With the collie who ‘did everything but talk’ — 
  • Sour windfalls of the orchard back of us. 
  • A summer without parents is the puzzle, 
  • Or should be. But the boy, day after day, 
  • Writes in his Line-a-Day No puzzle. 
  • When the puzzle finally arrives, after days of waiting, it is described in detail:
  • Out of the blue, as promised, of a New York 
  • Puzzle-rental shop the puzzle comes — 
  • A superior one, containing a thousand hand-sawn, 
  • Sandal-scented pieces. Many take 
  • shapes known already — the craftsman’s repertoire 
  • nice in its limitation — from other puzzles: 
  • Witch on broomstick, ostrich, hourglass, 
  • Even (not surely just in retrospect) 
  • An inchling, innocently-branching palm.
  • Log

  • Then when the flame forked like a sudden path
  • I gasped and stumbled, and was less.
  • Density pulsing upward, gauze of ash,
  • Dear light along the way to nothingness,
  • What could be made of you but light, and this?
  • Manos Karastefanes

  • Death took my father.
  • The same year (I was twelve)
  • Thanási’s mother taught me
  • Heaven and hell.
  • None of my army buddies
  • Called me by name—
  • Just ‘Styles’ or ‘Fashion Plate’.
  • One friend I had, my body,
  • And, evenings at the gym
  • Contending with another,
  • Used it to isolate
  • Myself from him.
  • The doctor saved my knee.
  • You came to the clinic
  • Bringing War and Peace,
  • Better than any movie.
  • Why are you smiling?
  • I fought fair, I fought well,
  • Not hurting my opponent,
  • To win this black belt.
  • Why are you silent?
  • I’ve brought you a white cheese 
  • From my island, and the sea’s
  • Voice in a shell.

James Merrill

James Merrill

James Merrill (1926-1995) was an American poet known for his distinctive formal style. He was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1977, and completed his three-volume apocalyptic epic The Changing Light at Sandover in 1980. Born in New York City, Merrill is the son of Charles E. Merrill (1885-1956), one of the founding partners of the Merrill Lynch investment firm. Coincidentally, the poet was born in the building that would become the site of the infamous 1970 Greenwich Village townhouse explosion, caused when a bomb, targeted for military men and their dates at a ball scheduled at Fort Dix, NJ, prematurely exploded as it was being constructed by members of the domestic terrorist group Weather Underground. Merrill memorialized the event in his poem “18 West 11th Street.”

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