The Christchurch Fortune Teller

On Tuesday, 22nd February 2011, the city of Christchurch was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake. The city was severely damaged and 185 people lost their lives. Countless more were left homeless, terrified, psychologically scarred. They were now the reluctant custodians of a ruined city.

My brother and his family, and my Uncle and Aunt live there. They were all OK physically, but even now they are figuring out how to deal with the quake’s literal and figurative aftershocks.

I travelled to Christchurch last year for the first time since the earthquake (it takes about an hour and a half to fly there from my home in Auckland), and I cried when I saw what was left of the inner city. It still looks like a war zone.

I wrote this poem over the last few days. I suppose it would have been fitting to write it last month and post it on the third anniversary of the earthquake. But you can’t predict nor control when the muse comes to visit…

The Christchurch Fortune Teller

It was crumbling, she said.

Crumbling around me as I


stone to stone,

Before to After,

my feet burning.

I thought I would die, she said

as she sat in my swinging chair

sipping tea.

Underneath us the ground was solid and still.

On the table between us she had spread

the newspaper from the day before It happened.

The teapot steamed on grainy memories

of used-to-be lives.

What was crumbling? I asked.

My life as I knew it, she answered, and her lips gripped the lip of the cup.

Tiny leaves escaped from their woven, temporary shelter

sank and settled

like liquefied silt, telling the fortunes of all of us.

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