THE FIRST ONE
Christchurch, September 5, 2010
Strange days when the crockery flies.
Strange days when the red bricks dance
to an Orphic tune on xylophones like
a poltergeist has got into them.
Then the sirens begin to scream.
Strange days with photos twitched off walls.
Strange days when the ground rolls like the sea,
breaking on dunes of brick dust. Terra firma
isn’t anymore; turning traitor,
roars like a wounded tiger.
Fine old buildings divest themselves
of their architectural marzipan, gyring
naked in epileptic spasm.
The stone survivors are scarred,
or must be euthanized.
Just when you think the geological
Contractions are over, there
is suddenly another. Raw nerves,
sleeplessness, and shuddering earth will
seem absurd with the stars so still.
Versions of this poem have previously appeared in Leaving the Red Zone: Poems From the Canterbury Earthquakes, edited by James Norcliffe and Joanna Preston, Clerestory Press, Christchurch, 2016, and before that The Press (Christchurch), September 2010.