A Very Good Puzzle

I have sat in the armchair in the living room now
about three mornings before breakfast
with this puzzle I can’t do.
Usually I am pretty good at puzzles,
but this one, where you take a flat white square
at one corner of a little open box
and work it over to a different end
by sliding vertical and horizontal bars,
orange and green, and two very small squares,
purple, which are, I realize, the key pieces,
has stopped me cold. It looks quite easy,
and has in fact been done once while I watched,
but fast, so that I hardly saw the moves.
Of course there are puzzles and puzzles,
some anyone can do, designed for children.
and are supposed to make them happy, not frustrated-
but ultimately these aren’t grown-up fun-
and problems, mate in two or three or four,
really a matter of time and doggedness.
There are the Chinese boxes which drive you mad
with something always left over or left out,
and even, I suppose, the absolutely perfect
puzzle, the nightmare that is soluble
but which you can’t solve, where there’s one
correct way only, but in its nature
no way to find the way. Time almost up.
We are both late, I’m being useless . . .
the little pieces, always the key pieces,
because they shift most freely-and I know it,
and I know the damned thing works,
but here I am again: if he won’t move
you can’t, and then I can’t, and then it’s blocked.
Damn all. For one last time? I seem so close,
stupidly wanting to ask, all right
show me again, just once, a hint, a clue-
but yes I know: that spoils it all, and you-
you know. Well, coffee: cut my loss,
I quit. You’re smiling, I’m not cross.
What can you do when a puzzle won’t be beat?
Put it away? Maybe. Maybe you cheat.