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.