Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Poem: 102 Armagh St

a window open
curtain an upflung arm
in the morning
the sky's
wide blue eyes

in the street
bricks kneel
among tiny lilies
a wrecking machine
nose upturned
waiting for biscuits.

I'm currently living on the fifth floor of an apartment on Armagh St, Christchurch CBD. From the balcony, one can look out towards the red zone and the rows of wobbly condemned buildings - 'death row'. I'm only here for 6 weeks working, but admit to being a bit of a woose about being on the fifth floor. In my first night here I was shaken awake by an aftershock, but have mellowed so much that three weeks on, I slept peacefully through two aftershocks while my husband was kept awake - or maybe that was just the busy on-call ensuring I passed out successfully at night...

Not surprisingly, it's odd walking around the CBD, staring at the fences everywhere (they migrate frequently along with the wrecking machines, like grazing beasts). The CBD is eerily quiet and almost devoid of people, except on sunny weekends when the local populace comes in with their dogs, strollers and bikes and strolls along the fenceline pointing out the new holes in the cityscape and catching up with the latest earthquake gossip. I've taken to walking different routes to and from work, noticing the changes each day and the small details - rosemary bushes left undisturbed at the periphery of a demolition site, a fur hat perched perkily on top of a letterbox beside a red stickered property, the way the houses crouch at odd angles, almost as if they were people surprised at a party. The few people I do meet smile at me. Are they locals pleased to see that someone is enjoying the city, or are they fellow long term visitors? There are so many new people in town at the moment. On the corner of the Botanic Gardens, the same man in cravat and tails plays "La Vie En Rose" for hours, day after day. It's like groundhog day with a slightly melancholy European air.

There are the stories too. Everyone has them - small anecdotes about what's happened, more poignant than the dramatic news clips and the footage recorded on yet more helicopter flights over the damaged city. I've been recording them in my head, intending to write them down. I feel they need to be remembered, kept before they too are demolished by the passage of time.

I'm delighted to be this week's Tuesday Poetry editor - head on over to the main page to see what I've chosen - three poems, one from each of the shortlisted books for the poetry section of the National Book Awards. Winner will be announced this coming Friday, also the day when the country will explode in a riotous celebration of poetry - hurray!!


Mary McCallum said...

This is lovely - so simple - waiting - bereft. Thank you for your eyes on the Christchurch scene, Renee.

Helen Lowe said...

I like the juxtaposition, Renee.

penash said...

OK I see, you'll have to come over to Mum and Dad's wonky house for coffee :) Or at least drinks after the show, it's next door.

Catherine said...

I enjoyed the surprising image of the crouched digger waiting for biscuits. (I have been one of those locals strolling round the barriers peering at the CBD on the other side)