Words for Christchurch: Jan Kemp

Poet and short story writer Jan Kemp sent these Words for Christchurch to us from Germany.

i.m. Victims of the Christchurch Earthquake, NZ,  22nd February 2011

Tunisia, Egypt, Christchurch, Libya, Japan,

a month of revolutions & catastrophes each one occurring

as we revolve, a bit askew, on our wobbly axis round the sun.

Each one, none less our own than our own; & of the smallest

we each know of a particular someone: we, a small

population, close-knit, here in this ‘far-pitched … hostile place …

fixed at the friendless outer edge of space’,

[Sonnet of Brotherhood, R.A.K. Mason]

someone whose name was on the missed list,

someone whose house was smash-hit or now red-ticketed for demolition,

someone the rescuers in Day-Glo-orange and hard hats

putting themselves on the line couldn’t helicopter out

from an upper floor, a punched-out window or find under

slabs of concrete and bricks that once clad the sides

of Durham & Colombo Streets. Like young city fathers,

the new skyscrapers among their nineteenth century

re-facaded elders, all now steel girders & plates & shards

made giant spilled Meccano, as if after a bomb had dropped –

the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächntis-Kirche in Berlin with its still-broken spire

left as a remembrance, a new one built no higher, from the ground up.

Will we leave Christchurch Cathedral’s spire as rubble or rebuild it

too as a sign, like the words: Monte Cassino, Gallipoli, Anzac, signs of what

we feel is and was our innocence abroad, whether or not the disaster

was human-caused or of natural force beyond control?

Who can take on Ruaumoko stirred up to such fury, striking at random to vent internal wrath

from our planet’s core even an earthquake god cannot be blamed for?

‘Perilous’, precious, this life, these lives, these deaths for which

we now all gather under the sky’s great cloak to mourn.

Jan Kemp MNZM, Kronberg im Taunus, Germany, Sunday 13 March 2011

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

Words for Christchurch: Kay McKenzie Cooke

Kay McKenzie Cooke is a poet based in Dunedin who sent these Words for Christchurch, sharing her personal connections to Christchurch and how the earthquake has impacted the lives of people around the country.

‘Makes you think’

I was looking forward to the start of 2011; I hadn’t found 2010 to be a very settled year. On one level, I put the unsettled feeling down to it being the Year of the Tiger. However, I don’t put much credence on such, so on another level, I just put it down to life.

An event that had started 2010 off for me, was reading at a poetry reading for Chinese New Year celebrations at the Chinese Gardens here in Dunedin. As it happened, it was also the day that my youngest granddaughter was born. Both her mother and her sister were also born in the Year of the Tiger; something that had been on my mind that dusty, windy day. One of the other readers there said, “The Year of the Tiger is meant to be a year peppered with sudden surprises.” I wondered what was ahead.

As the year progressed, on a personal level, surprises did seem to be happening; one of them was a wonderful, quickly-arranged visit over from Japan by our son. He had with him his nine-month old baby boy for us to meet (and hold and hug). There was also my mother’s 80th birthday in September to look forward to.
Then at 4:36 a.m. on September 4th, there was a not-so-good surprise. A massive earthquake hit Christchurch causing a great amount of damage, but miraculously, no loss of life. Luckily, all our family there were okay and their houses largely undamaged.

In the aftermath, we selfishly wondered if our mother’s birthday party, planned to be held at our sister’s place in Christchurch, would go ahead. Could we expect our 80-year-old mother to be alright there, with all those aftershocks and talk by geologists of the likelihood of another ‘big one’? However, my sister and her two daughters were okay, her house was okay, and she said, “Of course it’s still at my place.” The party went ahead and the arrival of a sister secretly flown over from Perth to surprise our mother, was a success.

While in Christchurch we experienced the fear of after-shocks and saw where broken parts of the city lay, cracked and shattered. I drove with my sister to go and buy supplies for the party. The trip took us hours because of slow traffic on damaged and blocked roads.

I thought about what Christchurch meant to me. My husband, Robert, spent three years at university there and after we got married, we lived there for a time. My sister has lived there for nearly forty years now. Early in the twentieth century, three of my father’s sisters (Agnes, Alice and Joy) in turn, moved from their home in Orepuki, Western Southland, to make their homes in Christchurch. They married there, raised families there and died there.

Richard Liddicoat, the Christchurchian who has invited writers to write in support of Christchurch, happens to be the grandson of one of those sisters; Alice. In September, 2010, my sister and I met him for the first time. I remember us sitting at a favourite cafe of his. I remember the owner hailing him as we walked in the door. (I wonder if that cafe still exists?) We sat at an outside table, and as we talked I could see on the banks of the Avon River opposite, cheerful daffodils bobbing normally in a spring breeze.

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Words for Christchurch: Brian Easton

Public Library, Christchurch, N.Z.Brian Easton, economist and Listener columnist, wrote these Words for Christchurch. He tells us of his reading life through books, the special place the old public library on Hereford street holds in his heart, and his hopes for that site post earthquake.

Dear Richard,

I could not write to anyone in the Christchurch public library about what is happening after the Christchurch earthquake. The library is too integral a part of me. Not the new one on Oxford Terrace but the old one – on the site since 1863 – on the corner of Hereford St and Cambridge Terrace, opposite the police station (it is still the site of the old YMCA for me) and with the Canterbury Club on its north (never been in it).

It is so central to my Canterbury and to my growing up there. Both the university and the Royal Society had their first meetings there. My grandfather would cycle all the way from St Albans with my mother on the bar to collect books. I biked there by myself the five kilometres from South Christchurch – those were days when it was safe for a kid, and pleasant enough too; I can still describe the precise route (including the variations, some designed to moderate a head wind).

I am not sure when I started. I must have been very young, for I recall taking Enid Blytons and Biggles from the spacious children’s library on the left of the entrance. I was dismayed when they disappeared from the shelves. My mother, who became a librarian – Hilmorton High School has named its library the Thelma Easton Library for her years of service, in which she paid particular attention to encouraging children to read  – told me they were removed because children kept rereading them and didnt move on. (Years later I found a copy of Up the Faraway Tree, but the magic I remembered had drained away.)

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Words for Christchurch: Emma Currie

Emma Currie is a second-year student at the Hagley Writers’ Institute.

State of Emergency

1.
Hazy lazy skies
fractured terra firma, fractured people
bathing in dusted blood
while buildings play dominoes.

2.
Candle wicks tired
lulled into foetal positions
ears to transistors
terror disseminated through airwaves
lives interrupted.

3.
Electricity lies dormant
if tears could be bottled no one would want for thirst
hiding helps embroider the truth
as the death toll rises.

4.
Hearts in hands
buildings on the ground
tarps billowing spinnakers
like basketballs rusty nailed planks
catch air.

5.
Powerlines swing
inviting nimbus to play jump rope
dust twirls like khaki tutus
rubble quivers playing statues
in the whipped wind.

6.
Anxiety is a hand held
trauma is hands and knees on the ground
destruction revealed
a scarlet red curtain raised
as dust and smoke settle
waiting, red sticker, yellow sticker, green.

Words for Christchurch: Keri Hulme

Korure

The green tunnels of my dreams
are still invaded by the sea-
the wreck waves hurtle over the cribs
and cetaceans I have never seen
rollick & clamour & band together to fossick where homes have been

-the home at Leaver Terrace
where I grew up
may still stand

was headed home there when we were warned of a tsunami & sent off early from Aranui High

we sped to New Brighton beach
to watch for it,
off the old pier-

Tautahi knew vibrant swamps,
rich with lively food
-change is not new here

our islands have dived like dolphins below the sea time & time before: our hills are sea-carved our mountains jagged from upthrust -no steadfast footing anywhere nearby- just a sure blue light of certainty that I, as a dreamer, trust- we will continue living in these unsteady lands hoping & dying & helping & building -because we are human, because we must-

Words for Christchurch: Madeleine Slavick

Image

Madeleine Marie Slavick is the author of several books of poetry and non-fiction, and has exhibited her photography internationally. She lives between New Zealand and Hong Kong and maintains a daily blog: http://touchingwhatilove.blogspot.com.

One Week after the earthquake

Yesterday, at 12:51, silence. Today, a coffin painted in New Zealand seascape for a man named Joseph stays in the ground. I am sitting between two Maori women, who are facebooking friends in Christchurch, asking what they might need. Hand sanitiser, they are told. Also gas canisters, guitar strings, coffee beans. A woman living in a cordoned-off zone says that people in the city are changing, staring into ‘middle distance’, not spontaneously greeting each other anymore. A student in a hospital holds the hands of the people who rescued her. She says, ‘I trust you’ and smiles. She laughs her first laughs in a week.
Photo: Covered vineyards, Martinborough, New Zealand

Words for Christchurch: David Howard

In the second contribution from writers around the country in our Words for Christchurch series, Dunedin poet and founder of literary magazine Takahe David Howard writes an elegy to Rhys Brookbanks, who died in the CTV building collapse. The piece was originally published as All about it on Bookman Beattie’s blog. This version, David says, has been revised to incorporate some of Rhys’s own poetry, in particular The Glorious Dead.

REMEMBER WE THEM WILL

in memory of Rhys Brookbanks

1

Things go on
leaving. They go on because
they leave. A leaf falls over
itself, the very.

*

Beyond what is
said to what is, the impossible.
And you curtsy,
leaf.

2

The wind doubles
back. It carries the scent of sex
to the tree’s knot, where
you expected initials.

*

When the dead are, then
you become
petrified
wood the superstitious knock on, wanting

inside. Igneous self
leaving
nothing to the imagination stone doesn’t have.

*

The wind doubles up and
under: a noun with attitude,
sharp as a mother-in-law
studying the sheets.

3

Your picture is always in my head
which is in my hands.

(We need uninterrupted coverage)

At 12.51 the wild yonder
bruises. A lottery vendor, God

(We need half-time comments, cheer leaders and hotdogs on a stick)

crosses the square, where you
wait. The ghost of Godley

(We need widescreen TV, surround sound and optional extras)

watches from the fur of a cat,
the feather of a bird, hears the word

(We need censor’s approval)

Extra! on the lips of a newsboy.

Words for Christchurch: Paula Green

With the help of Graham “Bookman” Beattie, we’ve launched an open invitation for writers from around New Zealand to send us words for Christchurch. The first piece – received minutes after the invitation was offered – is from Paula Green, a West Auckland poet, children’s author and reviewer.

February

We feel far away

Someone is watching a movie and someone is choosing sushi
Someone is leaving a building and someone is in a phone booth
Someone is picking a library book and someone is baking bread
Someone is making love and someone is poaching eggs
Someone is drinking coffee and someone is drinking tea
Someone is listening to an iPod and someone is digging weeds
Someone is asking for forgiveness and someone is saying yes
Someone is holding her baby and someone is on the point of death

We feel far away and helpless

There are pictures of buildings falling and pictures of broken signs
There are pictures of cracked roads and pictures of papers flying
There are pictures of houses split in two and pictures of rising silt
There are pictures of colossal boulders and pictures of the miracles
There are pictures of teams searching and pictures of the cathedral
There are pictures of the walking dazed and pictures of the inconceivable
There are pictures of bloodstained faces and pictures of strained limbs
There are pictures of survivors weeping and pictures of hope undimmed

Helpless, we feel helpless

There is the sound of thumping hearts and the sound of rumbling ground
There is the sound of car alarms and the sound of someone found
There is the sound of china smashing and the sound of fires raging
There is the sound of phones unanswered and the sound of those afraid
There is the sound of reporters speechless and the sound of stories told
There is the sound of walls slumping and the sound of a further jolt
There is the sound of sirens shrieking and the sound of names listed
There is the sound of the mayor’s updates and the sound of labour gifted