We left Aotearoa on Wednesday 22 February, not long after the anniversary of the earthquake which devastated much of Christchurch and its people, and began a year most would rather forget. At 12:51pm, my partner Christine and I listened in meditation as the names of the dead were read on air. As the roll call continued, I began to imagine the alphabet itself as those buildings, falling to this force of nature.I was born in Christchurch. I went to Canterbury University, lived there for a few years. For most of my adult life, though, I have lived in Wellington. The earthquakes in Otautahi took no personal toll on me. I am very grateful for this. But I don’t think this is why I haven’t been able to write anything about that day. My loved ones (in particular my god-daughter and her mum, T) have been deeply affected by it. My brother and his wife. I remember in excruciating detail that day when we were at home, absent-mindedly watching the telly one afternoon over lunch, only to see the TV3 coverage change to those horrifying, dusty scenes in the streets. People running, sobbing, desparate.
Yet I haven’t been able to address any of what happened with written down words. Poetry’s failed me. Perhaps language collapses, along with everything and everyone else. Perhaps I am not the only one who doesn’t know what to say, or how to say it.
There goes M, N, O. The silence after the last ‘Z’ rings with great sadness.