Broken and Unbroken

Ireland 097


It appeared nearly two centuries ago as a noun–distinct from a mere “walk” and more akin to a ramble–in Jonathan Swift’s “My Lady’s Lamentation”:

How proudly he talks
Of zigzags and walks

It’s a decent Scrabble word.

Mathematically, it is a literary oxymoron: a seamless “broken” line.

It can be found in architectural details, in the steep angles of a child’s dress-up crown, bridges’ aggressively slanted steel beams, the gentle meandering slope of a waterway breaking through a marsh.

It’s even a moth.

It’s also a compact, if grossly understated, metaphor both for death and for the walking who have been wounded by it.

You went zig and I went zag . . . .

I watch butterflies’ and moths’ zigzag zooming around the kind of bushes Jim once planted to draw them to our home.

Invisible and fleeting paths, Balm in Gilead:


“…his voice is a rainstorm   
that rinses air to reveal earth’s surprises.
Today, the summer gone, four monarch butterflies,
their breed’s survivors, sucked a flower’s last blooms,   
opened their wings, orange-and-black stained glass,   
and printed on the sky in zigzag lines,
watch bright things rise: winter moons, the white undersides   
of a California condor, once thought doomed,
now flapping wide like the first bird from ashes.”

Author: Stephanie

In her spare time, Stephanie works full-time, and then some, as an attorney. She has published articles and delivered talks in arcane fields like forensic evidentiary issues, jury instructions, and expert scientific witness preparation. She attended law school near the the banks of the Charles River and loves that dirty water; she will always think of Boston as her home. You are welcome to take a look at her Facebook author page, or follow @SMartinGlennon on Twitter and @schnitzelpond on Instagram. Bonus points for anyone who understands the Instagram handle. All content on this blog, unless otherwise attributed, is (c) 2012-2023 by Stephanie M. Glennon and should not be reproduced (in any form other than re-blogging in accordance with the wee Wordpress buttons at the bottom of each post) without the express permission of the domain holder.

11 thoughts on “Broken and Unbroken”

      1. Every day in our life is zig-zagging.
        It’s a great word: zig-zagging.
        When there’s trouble in the office, now I can say: we were zig-zagging each other today!

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