James Merrill

(3 March 1926 – 6 February 1995 / New York City, New York)

The Puzzle is no Puzzle Poem by James Merrill


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.

Submitted: Wednesday, May 09, 2012

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