Monday, August 22, 2011

Tuesday Poem: I'm Starting to Speak the Language, by Nicole Cooley


of disaster, he says and we keep driving through Mississippi,
Highway 90, Hurricane Alley, on our way to New Orleans,
while Johnny Cash sings, Go on, I’ve had enough.
Dump my blues down in the Gulf
And he says, that one’s blue-roofed, that one’s gone,
and we stop to see an address on a tabletop leaned
against a tree, a FEMA number spray-painted on wood.
There’s no house. Private Property. Keep Out. Do Not Demo.
We are here together on a tour of the Gone: three porch steps
For Sale By Owner, a beached trolley at the edge
of the road like a huge stunned animal -- Tour Historic Biloxi!
Gulfport Economy Inn. IHOP. Jefferson Davis’s Beauvoir House.
All that’s left of an address he calls the new lexicon,
the spray-painted X, the house marked O,
Dog Found. Stone foundation threaded with weeds
that are no language. Still, you can tell
where a house once stood, he says, by the clearing.
A front gate is For Sale by Owner. All that’s left
of an address. Missing a whole story.

- Nicole Cooley

One of the blogs I read regularly is Brian Brodeur's How a Poem Happens. Each post contains a poem and an interview which reveals how it came about.

Last week I found this poem by Nicole Cooley there. She has kindly allowed me to repost it for Tuesday Poem. For the related interview, visit this link.

Although the situation in New Orleans, and Mississippi, is not the same as the situation in Christchurch, I felt immediate recognition on reading this poem. We too, are starting to learn the language of disaster. The signs spray-painted on our buildings may not be quite the same, but the emotional territory is recognisable. "All clear" we read, as we travel round the city, "No Go", times and dates that buildings are checked, and others are labelled with contact details for the owners and engineers, in the hopes that they will not be demolished without notice. And then there is the growing number of vacant sections as damaged buildings come down.

I'm about to take a blogging break for a couple of weeks, but particularly wanted to post this powerful poem before I take a much-anticipated break from earthquakes and snowstorms. For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Month of Photos #28

This drill has appeared at the bottom of our street in the last couple of days. They are testing the soil to see if it is strong enough to build on again. Apparently they drilled down a couple of metres and then hit water. Water was pouring out of the drill under pressure when I went past, and I heard that it goes a long way down, which is not good news for all the houses along the river.

If the land is not good, then there is no point repairing the houses, because no insurance company will cover them. (And we are still getting shakes - two of magnitude 4+ yesterday, after a few quieter weeks). So areas of the city where the land needs remediation are being declared "red zones", and all the residents will receive buy out offers from the government. Then the houses will be removed, and the land repaired (a very long term project). Then, at some time in the future, it may be built on again.

Close to 10,000 houses have already been declared red-zoned. The houses at the end of our street closest to the river and all the houses on the road bordering the river, are currently orange-zoned, which meanse "further investigation is required". Which is where the guys with the drill come in.

I'm very thankful that the land under our house is OK. And concerned for my neighbours who may be not so fortunate.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Month of Photos #27

I've been indoors all day until after dark (at a bridge tournament) so I'm posting another photo from the craft fair yesterday. I liked the fragmented reflections of the stall opposite in these mosaic mirrors, described as "quake art" (wonky houses and cathedrals, mostly).

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Month of Photos #25 & 26

I missed a couple of days, so I'm posting two today. I went to the Dunkley's Great New Zealand Craft Show. We missed out on it last year because of the September earthquake. Parts of the Addington Raceway where it is held each year are damaged, but there are enough good buildings for it to go ahead. It was good to see some of the stallholders displaced from the Arts Centre, which is severely damaged.

I included this second one as it is "glass" week at Carmi's blog, here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Month of Photos #24

A couple of days of rain have washed away quite a bit of the snow, but there is still plenty on the hills, and on the roadside verges on this side of town. (We were on the north side of town last night and found it was quite a bit clearer).

This was taken after work, when the sun had finally come out and we had a glimpse of blue sky.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Snowstorm, by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Snowstorm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight; the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

Come, see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake or tree or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, naught cares he
for number or proportion. Mockingly

On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and at the gate
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not.
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

I had a couple of spring poems that I was considering for today's post, but then the snow arrived and neither seemed quite appropriate, so I went on a quick search for a winter poem instead.

I cleared the driveway enough last night to get my car out this morning - but more snow fell in the night, so when I got up I found I was back where I started. In the end I decided to walk to work. It usually takes me about half an hour, today it was more like fifty minutes. The first bit was the toughest, once I reached a main road I just walked in the tracks left by cars.

I was quite relieved to be given a lift home in the boss's son-in-law's four wheel drive again, as he finished work a half an hour before me. The drive way is clear again - enough to get the car out - but whether it will remain so tomorrow I don't know.

My boss is very good about paying me when I can't get in due to earthquake or snow, but there have been so many of those paid days already this year that I don't feel right taking more if I can help it. After all, if no work is being done, no money is coming in.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Month of Photos #22

More snow! Three weeks ago we had the coldest day since 1918, and now we have a "one in fifty year" snowstorm, which is actually heavier than the previous one, and predicted to last several days. It has swept the whole country, with snow in Wellington for the first time since the 1970's, and snow in Auckland where it is pretty much unprecedented. (Though I don't think it actually stayed on the ground there).

I was all geared up for a snow day with no work, when my boss rang to say that his son-in-law had turned up in his four wheel drive, and could pick me up to take me to work. Given the number of paid days off I have already had this year, what with earthquakes and the previous snowstorm, I could hardly refuse.

I photographed the pigeons from the window at work, they were on the roof of a nearby house.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Month of Photos #21

Spotted in a garden near the Christchurch South library this afternoon. A bit of cheer for earthquake-stressed residents.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Month of Photos #20

I guess I had better stop waiting, then...

A billboard not too far from my home that seems to have been demanding my attention lately.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Month of Photos #19

Somewhere around this time last year I was celebrating a birthday. And, following a meme on another blog, I started a list of "x things to do before I turn x". (I am not being coy about my age - it's just that for purposes of avoiding identity theft, not revealing my exact personal details in such a public forum seems a good idea).

So - I've been looking over the list and pondering how differently my year turned out. For a start, there is nothing on the list that says "experience three major earthquakes". Or, "learn more geology than you ever expected". (Not to mention various snippets about the methods of building construction and their earthquake resistance).

There are things on the list that I just can't do at the moment. I can't walk the Crater Rim walkway, because large sections of it are closed due to rockfall hazard, and likely to remain so for some time. There is a poetry open mic series that I had intended to go to at least once, that is just not happening at the moment because the venue is unavailable.

It's not all bad though. I did order Moo postcards. I did send out six submissions of poetry (which represents about half of all the New Zealand journals accepting submissions that I am aware of). I did ride a camel (I admit, that only made it onto the list after I knew it was pretty certain to happen!)

And most importantly - I left one paid job, and one unpaid job, so now I am down to one paid job which takes four days a week, giving me a lot more free time. Leaving those two jobs was a bigger task than I expected. Sometimes it's a lot easier to keep doing something than to organise it sufficiently for someone else to take over. Now, I am hoping the coming year will be the year I actually do something with the extra time. So, over the next few days I will transfer the unachieved goals to a new list - at least, the ones that are still possible, and add a few more.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday Poem

Instead of posting a poem today, I have a link to the latest issue of the Science Fiction Poetry Association's online journal Eye to the Telescope which includes one of my poems "Radio Wave Propagation in the Roman Warm Period." (You will need to scroll down).

Another Tuesday poet Tim Jones was the editor for this issue, and a few more Tuesday poets are also featured.

And for more Tuesday poems, visit the main hub site.

A Month of Photos #18

The light reflecting off this window caught my eye on my way home this evening.

Monday, August 08, 2011

A Month of Photos #17

Our local supermarket and shopping centre - late afternoon. I'm not sure why the trolleys were left there when it was demolished - possibly they are damaged.
Rebuilding was to start in July but nothing has happened yet. Some rebuilding has been delayed because of the difficulty in getting construction insurance while there are still ongoing aftershocks.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Month of Photos #16

I went walking by the river late afternoon and found this cherry just starting to blossom. The orange in the background is the bare branches of a willow tree caught in the late afternoon light.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A Month of Photos #15

Still on the red theme - a crocheted red heart on one of the fences which surrounds the Christchurch central business district.

Friday, August 05, 2011

A Month of Photos #14

I've been trying to find other things to photograph than earthquake damage. All the same, I do feel a need to document some of it before the buildings are pulled down for good (600 in the central city alone earmarked for demolition). Because so much is closed, my routes for doing errands such as going to the bank or Post Office have changed - and every so often I pass a building that I've never seen before, such as this church a couple of kilometres away from my home. I thought I'd post it today because it is Red week at Carmi's blog, and this building is both red brick and red stickered. (Red, yellow and green placards on buildings indicate their level of safety).

I was intrigued to see that there was still a pile of snow at the base of the building - I guess, having a steeply pitched roof, the snow that slid off last week made quite a deep pile that has taken a long time to melt.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A Month of Photos #12 & 13

I had a busy day yesterday,, so I am posting both yesterday's and today's photos together.

In a small reserve near my work, bronze eels wriggle towards the river.

Detail of foliage outside the Christchurch South library.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A Month of Photos #11

The river as I drove past on my way to work this morning. It was frosty, and the mist was rising off the water.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Sonnet


for Deborah

These grey days, I hunger for colour. I scavenge
in produce aisles, take home bags overflowing
with orange-skinned mandarins, broccoli, dark
as pines, purple grapes, tri-coloured capsicums.

I sip herbal tea and read your messages.
Mongolia’s as hot as Korea, you say, but drier,
Everywhere is dusty. The vegetable soup is greasy
with mutton fat, and not much fibre in it.

You will pass through Osaka on your way home,
visit temples with gardens of pebbles
and carefully-raked sand. By the time you return
the maples in our garden will be swelling with new buds.

The Japanese have a special name for it.
Shinryoku – the tender new green of spring.

© Catherine Fitchett


At the time I wrote this poem my daughter had been teaching English in Korea, and was travelling through Mongolia, Thailand and Japan before returning home. It must have been about the same time of year as it is now. I was reminded of the poem when I was in the greengrocer's at the weekend, and decided to post it for my Tuesday Poem this week.

In a sort of double-dipping, the photo is included as today's image for my month of photos.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.