After writing in my journal this morning, I flipped through the book "In Pieces: an Anthology of Fragmentary Writing," edited by Olivia Dresher. I've sung the praises of this collection before, and it's one I return to often for the reminder it offers: all those little bits of writing you do are worthwhile. The collection is a diverse sampling of fragments by 37 writers. Some of the fragments come from diaries, some are postcards, notebooks, letters, aphorisms, short prose, vignettes, and lists. There are writers I know in the collection, or rather, I don't know them so much as I've had brief "writer interactions" with them. One is a mail artist and writer, Roy Arenella, who regularly exchanged postcards with my husband. The copy of the book is inscribed to Dan from Roy, but I've hoarded the book in the same way I've laid claim to Dan's copy of the Compact Oxford English Dictionary. It's mine because I use it more. Rights by usage!
I found some interesting fragments in the book this morning, but they weren't part of the collection. They were temporary bookmarks and placeholders during my tenure as the book's "owner." (I guess no one ever really owns a book - the same way you can't really say you own land -- it's an odd concept.) There was a postcard from the mail artist whose writing is part of the book, a post-it note with a woman's phone number on it and a plea to call, a florescent orange "Riverside High School VISITOR" badge from my visit as a resident poet a few years ago, a blue post-it with the note "1st, 4th, 5th" written as a list, and my favorite, which gave me pause this morning: an origami puzzle folded from school notebook paper by a boy who lived next door to us for a couple of years.
The puzzle is simple and intricate at the same time. When folded tightly it resembles a throwing star. If you pull on the top right and bottom left points simultaneously, the star slides into more of an oval shape and an hole appears in the center. You can continue to turn and pull on the remaining points gently until the opening in the center becomes larger and larger and the end result is close to a circle. The boy was about eight or nine when he made this for me. He used to sneak over to our house to make origami -- his father disapproved of his "habit." He struggled in school. He told me his teacher found origami in his desk and threw it away. I made sure we always had some papers around for his folding because he had a gift, and was learning from it. Then he just vanished. I saw him at a bookstore recently, a teen out for a trip with what seemed to be kids from a group home. We exchanged glances. No words. They were all tucked inside. I can't help but think of this origami star as a metaphor for the boy himself - either tightly closed and pointed, or a gaping hole. Maybe this applies to any human being.