Tuesday Poem: “Christchurch Gothic” by David Eggleton
Summer’s Avon spelt the names of atua in green,
and through trees sun shafts dug at dappled lawns,
as if to unearth a circuit-board of worm-holes,
the universe beneath the labyrinth,
the silent presence of mountain shingle
across the curve of the island’s waist.
Teen racers hummed like bees in a hive,
and late autumn was the harlequin
hurrying past them down Bealey Ave,
towards the rusted, busted, midnight hour,
its sword-and-sorcery pageant of flashing sabres,
its chorus lines of black on moonlit runnelled iron.
They drained the swamp for bodies,
and found a city in a smog overcoat the colour
of mid-winter: a swallowed-up netherland.
Around it, paddock windbreaks rose in ranks,
long shadows falling like guillotines,
as night exhaled its nausea.
Frosted spring melted into this deep carpet,
and from Port Hills rolled the squared-away harvest,
whose matted roots expressed pedigrees of settlement,
a holding pattern of heartbeats, brainwaves, fingerprints
down blind alleys. The city breathed in —
a hot air balloon sailed above its festoons of bitumen.
© David Eggleton
First published in New Zealand Books, 2009; also published in Time of the Icebergs (Otago University Press) 2010
Reproduced here with permission.
I have long been an admirer of David Eggleton’s “more is more” style of poetry and the way he evokes a strongly New Zealand “sense of place” through his work. David is also the 2012 Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury for the second half of this year; as the incumbent for the first six months, I felt it would be only in keeping with a spirit of Ursula Bethell collegiality to request permission to feature one of his poems as a Tuesday Poem—and was delighted when he agreed.
Choosing only one poem out of the selection he sent through was tough—but as soon as I read Christchurch Gothic, which evokes my home city as it was before the first major earthquake in 2010, I felt it had to be “the one.” At one level this is because I feel the poem does capture ‘the way we were’; at another I am aware that next Tuesday, September 4, is the two year anniversary of that first earthquake. But mainly, and I feel most importantly, I simply love the poem. I hope you enjoy it just as much.
David Eggleton has had six books of poems and a book of short fiction published, as well as several works of non-fiction, including Ready to Fly: the Story of New Zealand Rock Music, Into the Light: a History of New Zealand Photography, and Towards Aotearoa: A Short History of Twentieth Century New Zealand Art. He has also released a number of poetry recordings featuring his collaborations with musicians, and been involved in poetry text collaborations with practitioners of a variety of other art forms, from sculpture to fashion design. His first collection of poems, South Pacific Sunrise, was co-winner of the PEN New Zealand Best First Book of Poems Award in 1987. David’s awards also include the Robert Burns Fellowship 1990, New Zealand Book Reviewer of the Year 1991 and, uniquely among New Zealand poets, the London Time Out‘s Street Entertainer of the Year (Poetry) 1985.
To read the featured poem on the Tuesday Poem Hub and other great poems from fellow Tuesday poets from around the world, click here or on the Quill icon in the sidebar.