A poem for the 10th anniversary

The city and the city 

I lost two cities, lovely ones …

                                       – Elizabeth Bishop

The city I love, the city has fallen,
brought to its knees amid wreckage and mud.
Across the four avenues sirens are calling.

A rumbling shattering roar, and the yawning
gap in the sky where a building once stood.
A rupture in summer: a city has fallen.

Smoke rises and hangs in a thickening pall
over mothers and businessmen clawing at rubble.
Across the four avenues sirens are calling.

A sheared-off shop front. A bright painted wall
translated into a coffin lid.
Bones of the city, cradle the fallen.

Who do you pray to when churches are falling?
What sanctuary when stone splinters like wood?
when across the four avenues, sirens are calling?

A grey summer midday, without any warning
brought us to our knees amid rubble and mud.
The city, my city, the city has fallen.
Across the four avenues voices are calling.


– from Leaving the Red Zone, poems from the Canterbury earthquakes.

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