Words tasting like cardboard

book coverThe Japanese earthquake moved the world on its axis and I’m sure many of us feel our own personal worlds were moved off course by the February quake. I was out of town when the quake hit but for days after I felt extreme anxiety and food was just an automatic necessity, often tasting like cardboard.

Back in the thick of cleaning up and getting to grips with post quake realities television, newspapers and the internet ruled my life. Finally at least a week later I attempted to read a book. May be it wasn’t the right one for the times, maybe I wasn’t ready to be reading again but whatever –  I felt the words, like the food, tasted like cardboard.

Now I’m about to start reading Linda Grant’s latest. I think I’m now slowly getting back in the reading groove but I was shaken by not being able to enjoy what is usually my solace. Did anyone else have that experience? Are you finding that you are reading new books or revisiting old favourites?

Words for Christchurch: Mary McCallum

Author and freelance writer Mary McCallum – well-known to some as a frequent guest on National Radio – Wrote these Words for Christchurch.

Earth

For the people of Canterbury after the September earthquake, 2010

Day 1
it mobs us
leaves us
immobile

we are aghast and naked in the doorway
clutching each other, where’s the dog?
we are flying for the children, calling
their names, we are the woman up to her neck
in it, scrabbling for a handhold, calling —
the child behind her on the path stay there
the one she’s rushing to collect stay there
we are the boy running to the grandfather, calling —
we are the family watching the capsizing house

stay               there

earth in our ears
earth in our eyes
earth in our hair

Day 2
it runs its fingers
along the fences
and power poles
leaves behind
the sound
anxiety makes

there are
early births
and heart attacks
sleep flies from
windows like
featherless birds

Day 3
the faultline is the

break
in the spine and the

back

and neck
hip

and shoulder bones

adjusting

are the
after
shocks

Day 4
it nudges
like
a dog does
makes
the child vomit
makes
his little brother
shake
and shake and shake

the looters take what they like

the homeless take what they can

the mother says she can’t take anymore

the dairy owner says take what you like pay later

Day 5
it changes
the way we
face the world
that shop we
knew that street
we grew up in
that church
in Little River
we drove past on the way to our holidays

Day 6
the crane             drivers      are having a        field day
one  saves              a chandelier and        bows      to the applause
one unpicks a      wall brick     by brick      and leaves small
pyramids ready for       rebuilding    there are too many
toppled chimneys      too many buildings on their     knees
nothing can     be done about         Telegraph Road

Day 7
earth in our hair
earth in our ears
earth in our eyes

we are naked in the doorway
we are shaking like leaves
we are up to our neck in it

scrabbling for a handhold calling —

Mary McCallum

Earth

For the people of Canterbury after the September earthquake, 2010

Day 1
it mobs us
leaves us
immobile

we are aghast and naked in the doorway
clutching each other, where’s the dog?
we are flying for the children, calling
their names, we are the woman up to her neck
in it, scrabbling for a handhold, calling —
the child behind her on the path stay there
the one she’s rushing to collect stay there
we are the boy running to the grandfather, calling —
we are the family watching the capsizing house

stay               there

earth in our ears
earth in our eyes
earth in our hair

Day 2
it runs its fingers
along the fences
and power poles
leaves behind
the sound
anxiety makes

there are
early births
and heart attacks
sleep flies from
windows like
featherless birds

Day 3
the faultline is the

break
in the spine and the

back

and neck
hip

and shoulder bones

adjusting

are the
after
shocks

Day 4
it nudges
like
a dog does
makes
the child vomit
makes
his little brother
shake
and shake and shake

the looters take what they like

the homeless take what they can

the mother says she can’t take anymore

the dairy owner says take what you like pay later

Day 5
it changes
the way we
face the world
that shop we
knew that street
we grew up in
that church
in Little River
we drove past on the way to our holidays

Day 6
the crane             drivers      are having a        field day
one  saves              a chandelier and        bows      to the applause
one unpicks a      wall brick     by brick      and leaves small
pyramids ready for       rebuilding    there are too many
toppled chimneys      too many buildings on their     knees
nothing can     be done about         Telegraph Road

Day 7
earth in our hair
earth in our ears
earth in our eyes

we are naked in the doorway
we are shaking like leaves
we are up to our neck in it

scrabbling for a handhold calling —

Mary McCallum

Mary McCallum