Sleuth

The trail went cold in Algiers:
A dead end in the Casbah’s Low city,
A knife-grinder taciturn under a shuttered window
While a whetstone licked a steak blade shiny.
He backtracked;
The labyrinth spat him out repeatedly.
Trying to triangulate from the quayside by minarets,
His confusion migrained into vertigo.
His old school motto: No puzzle left undone! Then he saw it:
A merchant’s picnic of knick-knacks on a carpet.

He knows pieces take all forms:
How a jeep backfiring in the Azores
Fits inside the hollow of a yawn,
Loaves into glove compartments,
Eyes rhyme with trench coat pockets,
Nations’ messy crenulated margins mesh
Like toybox cogworks,
Pliant cadavers tessellate with anything.

In Algiers, it was a scrimshaw owl
On a driftwood plinth;
Hollow, he correctly guessed.
Back in his room, he used a penknife to work out
The wax stopper.

And now, on the Zürich Sleeper
He grips the crease-webbed sepia photo
Of a toddler in a white nightgown, sat
Buddhawise on a jetty,
Head a stunned cabbage against a monochrome harbour
And in the top-right corner, in thin brown writing:
Riesbach, 1918.
O his tum so Christmassy and gift-wrapped!
O the train’s crustacean clack like reunited jigsaw slabs!
His toes tingle in his socks; he goes winkless
Till the bloused miss brings him lapsang souchong
And a hot croissant on a flat plate
Like a cat bun-basking in sill sun.
He saws it lengthways,
Spoons on marmalade from a little jar
Then pats the gum goldened halves back together,
His breakfast solved.

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