Rib Raft

 
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In a way the nothing is worse than the thing,

the lack more frightening than the event.

Float like a boat, my son said.

He knew about the raft before the quakes,

learned the knack in China

making Disneyland,

creating concrete mountains beside real trees

and concrete trees outside real buildings.

Float like a boat, he said,

and it does.

In the old, the end he built was the safe place

while the elderly front rocked and buckled;

rising, falling, tilting till it broke

like a boat.

Not afloat but beached

on a reef

broken in the middle.

Every quake another moment of terror,

the noise heralding the movement,

warning,

sending Nigel Latta’s monkeys up the tree,

pails ready.

Anxiety levels rising,

breath held till it’s over.

But the new is different,

A new house,

rib raft foundation.

Floats like a boat, they said,

and it does.

But not a boat on the high seas,

more a punt on a gentle pond.

Still the noise

wakes the monkeys,

pails ready.

But nothing.

No shake, no movement.

The house is still

and, in that stillness,

not reassuring,

not safe,

but somehow more frightening

as the inevitable

is not.

 
Copyright © 2014 J.L. O’Rourke

CONTRIBUTORS NOTE:
This poem is my response to my on-going post-quake anxiety attacks. Every aftershock created for many an instant panic attack, which Nigel Latta explained beautifully as monkeys running up a tree, so every time the house shook, even from buses driving past, the panic would be instant but followed by a let-down as the shaking stopped. But when our house was rebuilt on its special ribraft foundations, I discovered that the anxiety was strangely heightened as the noise of the aftershock came but the shaking didn’t happen – so there was no way to end the experience – the waiting for the final bit remained unresolved.

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