Waves roll a turquoise silk swatch from this coiled wire
of road to Kāpiti Island. Beyond Kāpiti’s green pleats,
silk sea still unfolds, spreading to another piece
of this jigsaw land, that last interruption
The South Island
is so clear today I think I should see red flares
flower on pōhutukawa trees, your wet-suited arms
wheeling through distant splashes of waves,
while blue flashes of tui wings guide you to shore.
A ribbon of dust
streams silver glitter through my fingers.
My view blurs.
Some days, the South Island is an indigo suggestion,
a smudge blurring sea and sky, or a soft tumble
of clouds gathered on a distant hem of water
below snaggletooth mountains.
Other days, its shape is so sharp
I think the continental plates shifted miles closer.
Under a shade cloth of night,
I know where it lies, from spasmodic scythes
of silver light – maybe a lighthouse signal
in the Marlborough Sounds.
But on days clouds draw heavy drapes across the sky,
or rain falls in grey stripes, my only sight
of the South Island is when I open the glove-box
and unfold a neat rectangle of map
you put there before you left.
You taught me the language of maps,
a fluent lexicon of contours and coordinates.
You said all paths can be traced with a map
and compass; all landmarks found.
Because of maps,
I know some things are not lost
just because they are hidden from view.