The White Puzzle by Lynn Levin

MY NOTES: I am working on this posting Tuesday, January 21st, and outside everything is white, so this poem & title are perfect for today. Also, like Lynn notes, my (older) brother & I used to sit for hours at an old card table in the bedroom I shared with my older sister and build puzzles, piece by piece and at the end, separate the remaining pieces and build in a race to see who could finish the puzzle more quickly. This poem reminded me of that time and triggered my gift of a puzzle to my brother when we visited over the week-end of Martin Luther King’s birthday. We worked almost all day Saturday on the puzzle & it became a kind of meditation and escape at the same time. Puzzles are wonderful distractions!
P.S. My sister-in-law told me her friend builds puzzles on the Internet. Not sure I would like this, since I like to feel the pieces being interlocked.

The day I worked on this all was white outside my window, like the puzzle!


To love jigsaw puzzles, you have to love trouble –

the mad messing of a picture, the slow steps back to art.

Years ago, my brother and I spent hours

breaking up then piecing back

The Skating Pond by Currier & Ives,

Remington’s The Old Stage-Coach of the Plains

the cardboard pixels colonizing

the game table in the family room.

There was satisfaction in the fitting together

the doing of the definite task

then some days of admiration

of the solved thing before the sundering.

Once someone gave us a white puzzle,

a real head-breaker, the blank pieces

many and small like the counties of a state.

This was fitting for the sake of fitting.

No art in it that we could see, but we stuck to it,

and after a while the pieces began to clump together

like new snow on the lawn.

I remember the way our small talk

scribbled itself over the gathering page:

something about a math bee and Old Man Sprague

who kept sheep in his backyard and had a gun.

We nibbled popcorn, made Montana take shape

with its three sides and human profile,

the pieces knit like bone.

When the white puzzle was complete

we loved the way it lay like moonlight on the floor

then sat before our conquered space,

two Alexanders wanting more.

“The White Puzzle” is from Lynn Levin’s collection Fair Creatures of an Hour

P.S.  Sept. 1, 2014 UPDATE: Lynn now has a website: Check it out!

7 thoughts on “The White Puzzle by Lynn Levin

  1. Still a favorite pastime for me from childhood, too! Real puzzles on the dining room table and with a puzzle app as well…. you can HEAR the pieces lock together!!

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