A phallic, angular sculpture on the campus of Grinnell College. (It is phallic in the sense it is tall, thin and upright -- it isn't very much like a penis, though the author, being your basic White Heterosexual Anglo-Saxon male, admits that he has only one major example of a penis to go on. No, I will not accept samples for comparison, just take my word for it.) The Zirkle is taller than a man and much, much harder. (Insert obvious joke here. Fnord.)
Technically the Zirkle is an untitled metal sculpture. The common name for it comes from its deceased sculptor, the wife of which (Mrs. Zirkle, as it were) is still member of the Art faculty at Grinnell college, as of this writing (2000-05-12). The rumor is it that Mrs. Zirkle that does not approve of the jokes and activities that surround the Zirkle. One would think that if this were the case, she would be dead of some sort of stress-related illness by now.
Naturally, the reader is encouraged to imagine how students at Grinnell College, being like college students anywhere, treat a large, obvious, odd-looking rusted metal sculpture. It gets covered in toilet paper, it is the focus for meetings where people do nothing at midnight (especially meetings where they do not juggle fire), it has been in the center of a pagan Spiral Dance, and it has been the subject of costumes and student films (including an animation where the Zirkle is the tip of an alien spacecraft that forces the local squirrels to evolve). And these are only the examples that come to mind unbidden. It is the source of jokes and a features in the vocabulary of every serious student at Grinnell College. Any examination of the Old Scarlet and Black will find student-drawn comics featuring the angular monolith. There was even talk, at one point, of quietly mounting a laser otop it to polarize a line of air molecules straight up from its tip-top, turning the sculpture into a giant lightning rod, with the thought that if lightning hit it, it might blow all the rust off. (The author was an English major at Grinnell so cannot vouch how possible this really is.)
There is no truth to the rumor that the Zirkle is a consensual hallucination of the Back Table, tho it is possible that They are a dream of the Zirkle made flesh.