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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 5: October 2020
Prose Poem: 297 words
By Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Fully Interlocking


Some people believe that a jigsaw puzzle’s border should be worked first. These people need limits and boundaries. Others just like to rummage through the box looking for colors that match. These people do not have much of an attention span. True puzzlers look for likes: what looks like another rain-spattered street? What capital letter needs that serif to be complete? Puzzles remind us: Some things can be complete, not many and not often. Puzzlers have jigsaw puzzle like a disease. Like a hang nail. They can’t let it go, can’t walk past the table. They see fits from across the room. Puzzlers dream jigsaw puzzle. Patterns on a sitcom curtain will remind them of just the piece they’d been looking for. You can learn a lot about yourself doing jigsaw puzzles. How long you can sit in one position. How sore you can be the next day and do it all again. How you can put off deadlines and not cook until someone buys pizza. The satisfaction of finding a long-sought piece like welcoming a long-lost sibling home. When they were kids, my husband’s brother always hid one piece so the pleasure of completion could be his. Jigsaw puzzles are a collective task to build a barn, the Alps, morels, a sewing drawer, a Thomas Kinkade cottage, A Starry Night. No problems here but cardboard curves and notches. Puzzles favor those adept at nuance. Is a daisy petal that different from a dahlia’s? And it’s full-blown addiction until the last piece snaps in. The cat admires the puzzle by sleeping on it, and soon it’s time to send a care package of puzzles and magazines to my mother-in-law. That’s what we have in common: her son and jigsaw puzzles. She likes her borders first.

Elizabeth Kerlikowske’s
Issue 5, October 2020

first full-length book of poetry, Dominant Hand, is available from Mayapple Press, and she is co-author with artist Mary Hatch of Art Speaks: Paintings and Poetry (Kazoo Books, 2018). Other books by Kerlikowske include The Shape of Dad (a memoir in prose poems), Last Hula (winner of the 2013 Standing Rock Chapbook Competition), and Chain of Lakes.

She has been publishing her poetry and fiction for more than 20 years in such journals and magazines as Encore, Cincinnati Review, Passager, and Poemeleon, among others. Her work is anthologized in Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence (White Pine Press, 2016), The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women (Shade Mountain Press, 2015), and the Michigan writers anthology published by Western Michigan University (WMU). She also creates visual art and has recently completed the Hester Prynne Chair, first of a series of literary women chairs.

Kerlikowske completed her doctorate in English at WMU in 2007. An arts activist, she has served for many years as the president of the Kalamazoo Friends of Poetry, and she is also president of the Poetry Society of Michigan. She’s retired from a teaching career at Kellogg Community College.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Featured Artists Mary Hatch and Elizabeth Kerlikowske in KYSO Flash (Issue 9, Spring 2018); includes half a dozen of Kerlikowske’s ekphrastic prose poems and micro-fictions inspired by Hatch’s paintings

Three in Prose by Kerlikowske in DIAGRAM (Issue 5.1): “Forty Winks,” “The Girls’ Room,” and “Midway”

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