Sometimes I’m that puzzle you bought from an op-shop
five dollars. You looked so pleased holding it under your arm
a rubber band snapped tight around the cardboard box
seasonally appropriate image of red and yellow
leaves above a thick black river.
When we spread it on the kitchen table and sifted
pieces through fingers, fingers through pieces
we couldn’t find a single edge to get us started
– not a single edge or corner – five bucks, sure
but it was hard not to feel let down.
There are times on the train when young men sit near
and speak softly to each other in the familiar cadence
of my father’s language. I want to tell them I know
I’m related to them, just look at my name
but it’s a language I only recognise by sound.
Or when I hand over my keep cup and the vowels
of the barista are clipped like mine, hanging pounamu
and I want to say bro, we’re bonded, secret handshake
but there are hundreds of us here
with nothing remarkable about our easy migration.
Anyway, it turns out you can still put a puzzle together
when the edges are missing, but it’s harder to trust the process
harder to immerse yourself in the task
when you don’t really know if the bit you’re looking for
is lost in someone else’s living room miles from here.
The trick is to start from the middle.
Work your way from the bright centre of autumnal leaves
towards forested outskirts, like an ever-expanding universe
trying not to think what will happen
there will be no spare pieces left.