After skimming the Sunday Times, Dad turned to the back of the magazine
and tore out the crossword puzzle for his mother in Wisconsin—
as routine as my calligraphy class on Saturdays, flute practice
exactly twenty minutes on school nights
and astringent twice daily. I loved the idea of puzzles
but never tried my hand as problem-solving rubbed up against rivalry—
red velvet cake, red velvet dress, trilling—
because nothing was never enough and yet
more than a small rectangular lawn and the pulsing marsh beyond.
A puzzle might've been escape enough. A maze—instead of crossword?
No, cross words were our puzzles, after all. Although my sister and I adored
jigsaw pieces. Five-hundred. A zoo, I think. Giraffes, absolutely.
About this poem:
"'Giraffes' is from a new collection that continues my fascination with science—in this case, neuroscience. While reading about puzzles in Benedict Carey's 'Tracing the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving,' I came upon words and images that triggered a personal response. This often occurs when words have multiple meanings, like 'cross.'"