Category Archives: earthquakes

Forget everything

red zone river

(Image: Iain McGregor)


The land was empty,
bereft of the world
that once occupied her,
was she mourning
for the lost sounds
of children’s
hearts and feet,
pounding to the beat
of their laughter, lives
and freedom?

A no-man’s land,
mile after mile of barren
green, of do-not-enter, no
unauthorized access, of long,
stripped harakeke clumps
and a naked river
that mends its way along
cracked roads
and blocked off streets
with names
that used to belong
on google maps,
but now when you look
all it says is
forget everything.

Forget what breathed
and flourished here,
the barking dogs and
sleeping cats, the
gossiping neighbours
and lifelong friends
sharing food
and love and stories,
their water, porta-loos
and their breaking, aching
exhausted hearts.

Forget how the earth
shook and cracked
and ripped apart,
once, twice and
5000 more times until
you can forget
no longer, for the shaking
earth lives here
in your bones now.

Her core is buried deep
in yours, like a ghost
and a vampire, she haunts
your nights, and treads
lightly through your days,
at your side, ready to pounce
and steal
your breath,
when your children are too far
and the building is too high,
and there are too many
people between you
and the exits and in this
new city there are too many
buildings that could come down
and even though
the shaking ground
was only a bus rumbling
past, your body will
never forget. And you wonder,
you wonder,

is this what it means
to grow up
and out and in and
through, to be pierced
by loss and life so that
your body is marked
by the world,
holds and becomes the world
and it is all the same,
the world and you,
maybe there was never meant to be any
maybe that
is the whole point?

22 February

Today, a city remembers.
Solitary flowers rise
from old road-worthy vases,
a sign now of hope, or
new direction, perhaps,
like a Phoenix rising
from the ashes.

Today, a city remembers,
enveloped in a sombre shadow,
like the choking dust
of that fateful day
one year ago.

Today, a city remembers,
it is as if time has stood still,
or the year that has been
is rewound, like a clock.
To return us
(as only anniversaries can)
to the place,
and the time where we stood,
when the earth shook
us into terror
and despair.

Today a city remembers
185 departed souls.
The cicadas shrill
their song, while the shrouded sun
is in mourning, too.
Balloons and butterflies,
red, black, and orange,
are surrendered skyward,
from one place
into the forever unknown.

Pop-up mall

Pretty pop-ups belie
battered buildings beyond
the wire mesh.

Cracked pavement stones
offer new homes to flourishing weeds.

Sweet aromas of coffee, souvlaki, and life
almost obscure the pungent stench
of dust, grit and death.