Zig-Zag

by Dick Allen

When you’re being shot at, it’s best to run
in an almost zigzag pattern, varying
a little depending on the time of day,
the terrain, your distance from the shooter,
and the price of strawberries, for that direct path
between here and there and now and then
will most likely get your brains splattered
or at the very least a hole in one shoulder,
should you be lucky. Zigzag, then. Veer, swerve,
feign left and go right. Zig
when you’re expected to zag. Zag when all reason
would have you zig. As Emerson observed,
“a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,
adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines,”
a statement parodied by the two comedians,
Zig and Zag, once popular in Australia.
Imagine a bolt of lightning, its long downward stroke
and short backwards one laid out on the ground,
or the path of a sewing machine’s zigzag needle stitch,
the cut made by pinking shears, the trace
of a triangle wave or the clear and harsh harmonics
of a sawtooth one or the sawtooth blade itself,
markings on pottery, the cuts that separate
pieces of ravioli pasta. The Zorro slash
on a dried clay wall, the first letter of Zen. It gets them
every time, the thrill of a quick reversal,
an unexpected change, the sharp turn
you must be capable of if you would well survive.