When I had joined the edges
I thought I was done;
Perfectly formed in outward structure,
Its rectangular facets
Congratulate my ego.
A sigh of relief echoes in the hall
As I leave the table,
Satisfied that my work is done.

All is as it was before—though I,
Having found an easy solution,
Content in my labor’s fruit,
Was happy to let it lie.

It was a lie.
Easily I see, easily I conclude
That my tight grasp of understanding
Is extensive and complete.
None but I knew the toil it required
To find the edges
And recapture the whole sense I’d had
Once the box had been opened.

But the table remains,
Even as every day I walk by.
And my contentment is diminished
Living though leaving it lie.

Somehow, I witness my return,
The hole in the table
Taunting me until I admit:
Edges are not enough.
Abstract shapes, cast out,
Randomly litter the table—
Once clear and clean,
Now the canvas of tragedy.

Even if all this should find a context
Within the edges I’ve found,
This puzzle remains unfinished yet,
Empty within, dismembered without.

Sitting again before the task,
Where do I begin?
Choices lay everywhere
Having no semblance of order.
Choosing where to start over
At first seems simple.
With any piece—it doesn’t matter,
All are part of the whole.

Select one with an easy shape,
Select one with an easy color.
Choose a spot and try it in,
If it doesn’t fit, try again.

As seems best I quickly choose,
Guided by this intuition.
In my hand, a smoothly textured face
Hides its rough underside.
It feels small enough,
Insignificant as I had supposed.
Trying not to care, I look about
For a convenient beginning.

Sudden enormity stalls me—
I want to quit before I begin,
For now I see the size of the hole,
And how small the part I hold.

To quit—destroy the edges,
Release what’s in my hand,
Forget possibility
And count the fragments loss.
An easy solution,
With a single caveat:
Apart from the whole
I will never know.

Completeness calls to me,
Pursue the answer.
Here in my hand, I value
The fragment of what could be.

So I clutch it closely now,
Peering at its organic shape,
Bizarre and unnaturally carved.
Fascinating in all its mystery.
But disconnected and alone
It is fractured
Eluding completeness
Preventing the understanding of all

Setting it within the hole, I expect a fit.
Here, there, once, a hundredth attempt.
But frustration, not improvement,
Is all I ever discover.

Without edges
I find how little I really know.
External guidance is gone,
Having already formed outer structure..
Now, the inner fragments remain,
Each dynamic, only finding its place
When connected with all the others.
Revelation within completes the picture.

I find my tiny, childlike hand
Is helpless and fumbling the piece.
Set it down, turn it around,
Try it again, try it again.

Forcing, demanding, desperate,
I am frantic and scared,
Damaging my precious pieces
Along the way.
I’m tired, crying in my failure,
Wanting it perfect, wanting it right,
But my own attempts
Compound the reckless confusion.

At last I give it up.
Dropping my hand on the table,
Still grasping the piece
I tried so hard to understand.

Tears have streamed
Down this child’s little face,
Failure heavy, making me wait—
For what I do not know… … …
Gently, I feel my hand moving again,
Lifted apart from my will.
And in the last place I would’ve expected,
The fragment is enjoined.

A perfect fit, exactly as meant,
The inner, edgeless piece
Finds perfect harmony,
All now closer to closure.

My hand guided, enveloped
By one larger than mine.
A presence of greater perspective
Now gives this little child hope:
To grow through failure and try again;
To see the whole one piece at a time;
To feel the struggle and fight still more;
To know the peace of letting go.

Elated, I look up to the unwavering.
Though unacknowledged, supporting still:
My father, who let me learn on my own
That his help is part of my growth.

Mark Knoles
September 2, 2004


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