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: