It was a full day. And as usual, when I have spent a full day with my Dave, my head is full of new ideas. As we worked on the jigsaw puzzle, I considered why such a seemingly pointless activity appeals to me so much. I have very fond memories of particular puzzles I worked repeatedly as a child. And it was not unusual for my family to have a jigsaw puzzle in progress on the dining table when my kids were young. I realized that part of the answer to this question hinged on the "if-then-else" statement we had been talking about earlier. This is basically computer language's way of dealing with true or false statements and moving beyond them. Pretty much what you do every time you try to fit a puzzle piece into the whole. Either it fits or it doesn't and you act accordingly. So, yes, I do like the cut and dried aspect of working a jigsaw puzzle.
But I also like the exercise it gives my visual acuity--the over and over act of picking up a particular puzzle piece and figuring out where it fits into the whole. This sometimes requires rotating the piece, sometimes locating it with regard to other recognizable reference points in the image, qualifying the shape of the piece itself. Strangely enough, I even like the ebb and flow of triumph and frustration.
Of course, it was only a small step to consider working a jigsaw puzzle as a metaphor for writing. Guillermo Cabrera Infante disagrees with this idea. He says, "No, absolutely not, writing doesn't have to be like a jigsaw puzzle, it can be a very linear undertaking." And I can see his point. Each week I try to come up with assignments that will inspire my writing group. I try to leave them as open ended as possible while still providing some structure. But, it seems to me, that even when the process starts out in a linear way, it often goes in unexpected directions.
For example, I had an idea for a poem inspired by the fact that the trash truck empties the dumpster at the school across from my house each morning at 5:00 and how that always results in me waking up and thinking about my day. My plan was to focus on levels of consciousness. I stuck to my task during the first stanza, but then suddenly went somewhere entirely different as I bridged the white space into the second stanza! The poem is titled, "As Though Suffering From Broca's Aphasia." As I worked on it, it became more focused on how difficult it is for us to communicate and how necessary it is to do so.
Note: Individuals with Broca’s aphasia have trouble speaking fluently but their comprehension can be relatively preserved. This type of aphasia is also known as non-fluent or expressive aphasia.
Here is my poem:
AS THOUGH SUFFERING
FROM BROCA’S APHASIA
Five a.m. brings the roar, the bump,
the backing up of the truck
that dumps the trash across the street
as I slip from sleep to memory
and catalogue events since
I silently call to you as all around us
bodies fall through the dark
hoping to be caught by another’s surprise.
I imagine collective shadows as they
dive--choreographed, practiced, perfected.
Joined by mystery, they strive for divinity,
and struggle to speak without words.
Because I cannot say, I stumble through the day
refusing to take sacred images at face value,
and I strain to remember, when
as plentiful as pain,
as coincidental as night bugs
smeared on glass,
the ties between future and past
were most clear in that sharp intake of breath
when I was severed from my wings.
Words fail, systems fail,
still we are soundlessly bound
by these golden connections.
Compulsively examining each link of the chain,
ever hungry for the comfort of noise,
we need an endless stream of illusion,
a believable dream of grace,
and the certainty of fantastic sequels.
"Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else."--Tom Peters