whip-flick flog

Christine Burrows

working men and women, country folk, fit and fearless
just get on with it, slip on high-vis, put utes & manual skills to use
wide-eyed mothers calm shuddering children, check on neighbours
sweep up broken glass, boil water, ration food
the old ones are confused, feel funny in the head
street corners, and the bare-shelved supermarket
catch and stick them together, startled and talkative as starlings
trauma doesn’t speak its name, speaks instead
of chemical toilets, asks when will the chemicals come?
on the military convoy nosing through the rubbled inland road
with the coast highway impassable, north and south
choppers clatter, clutter a troubled sky, bringing in recovery crews
evacuating the hurt, the vulnerable, the eco-tourists here for a good time
while a dispassionate ocean rewrites the tide-line to accommodate seabed uplift
the Takahanga marae gates are opened wide for giving
a hug, a feed, a smile, a song for all - whānau, locals and strangers
the goths hand out free coffee from their cart by the creek
the District Nurse works an endless shift
though her own home twisted and split apart
it’s way too soon to count the cost, aftershocks still jolt
and on this ominous morning, crisp with spring frost
Hapuku exhales sudden dust from boulders
peeling off postcard-perfect mountain faces 
rolling like giant teardrops to explode in the river valley
Mount Uwerau is moulting, shedding ancient skin
old “Antlers”, Mount Fyffe, has new wounds on ragged scars 
she has a restless air and is broody as a hen
toes claw into the deep-sea canyon off South Bay
her shoulders shrug. she scratched her back
and her lap, the green dairy flats, broke up like crackers
in the fault-line’s whip-flick flog
as a nor’wester whistles through new cracks and fissures
and rust lays turmeric dust on silent railway tracks
teams of volunteers deliver care packages and listen
to the stuttered stories of a community in crisis
grateful most for each other

Contextual Essay: The poem, titled “whip, flick, flog” remembers the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that devastated my home town of Kaikoura, NZ in November 2016. As with any trauma – it remains as a present experience. This poem has been significantly reworked from a piece written at the time, and from journal entries and memories relating to it, most significantly the community care that immediately came into effect.

Christine originates from Aotearoa (NZ) and currently lives and writes on Dja Dja Wurrung Country, Victoria. Her work has appeared in  Cordite, Landfall, Westerly, Audacious, Catalyst, Australian Poetry Anthology, Spineless Wonders, Grieve, nScribe, Burrow and other places. Trauma, loss, dislocation, queer experience, social and enviro justice are frequent themes in her work.



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