Remembering September 4th: J.L. O’Rourke
September the 4th, 2010: 4:35 am
Christchurch, New Zealand
A Poem by J.L. O’Rourke
pitch black night,
followed soon by the shake.
but more felt in the dark than seen.
Recognition comes long before it stops.
Voices echo down the hall
as family members stagger from their rooms
into the illusion of safety framed by the hall.
Daughter pinned in her bed
unable to stand against oscillating walls.
scrambling from a top bunk
as it danced across the floor.
Someone found a torch that showed our disbelief
etched in confusion.
From a battery-powered radio
announcers’ voices confirm our innate knowledge
that, somehow, this one was different.
This one was BIG.
This one was life-changing.
Although it didn’t – quite.
It just started the sequence.
The big change would wait till next year.
As it was, we waited until daylight,
surveyed the damage,
picked up the broken ornaments,
cancelled music classes for the day.
We walked, later, around Avonside Drive,
checking on friends left without power or water,
avoiding chasms in the ruined road,
admiring grey volcanoes of liquefaction –
a new word that day – as they bubbled,
spurted, leaked, spread, engulfed
the pristine frontages of historic villas.
It would have been exciting
if it had stopped then
and not changed us forever