Shirley Eng now lives in Christchurch, New Zealand but has lived in Singapore and Shanghai. She writes short stories and poetry and the occasional piece of non-fiction.
They said, “This city’s old school, staid.
Unless a person’s of the St. College brigade
he won’t fit.” Male snobs, blinkered bosses,
old school ties not tied tight enough, recycled lies.
But Christchurch was always a place of rebels and ceiling
-smashers. Kate Shepherd, Ettie Rout, Elizabeth McCombs,
old-boys’-club crashers, spoilers of the rub-mine-I’ll-line-yours
nudge-wink networks, blind to all colours other than mine.
“The place is too flat!” people gripe,
but if they’d pushed my bike, gearless
into a sharp easterly,
they’d understand, hills
can be over-hyped.
True, it’s not easy on a horizontal plain, to grand-stand
sans stadium, soap box or greasy pole
with even the humpbacks of rubble,
loads of holy stones soaked in sermons
and hollow tones of boys’ choirs, gone to landfills
but in their place, vistas letting the light through.
Yet still some moan, “I can’t get my bearings, there’s no elevation
to see where I’ve gone, where I’ll go.”
They miss the mound, the molehill and the point –
those raised here also drift, their memories stretched
in collective yearn for a place they know: old Lichfield …
The Press … the Library? Their landmark flattened
or disguised as rusted rebar or surprised elephants
on walls they never knew, looming over abandoned lots,
their familiars lost, crushed, inhaled as toxic dust.
Earth’s upheaval, a non-partisan rebellion, citizen endured
but not without scars and so many marred by “a red zone” within.
Now seven years on, amidst concrete shards and twisted
wire, behind Smash Palace, forever English rabbits
graze fearless in a foreign field, beside the foreign car park.
Dust swirls down a new-laid path. A red-legged gull
struts a cycle lane. The sun shafts the dull, slate sky,
rebounds electric from a brown tower of shaded glass.
Saplings shiver. The city re-vives, slow breathing life.