Saturday, October 28, 2006

Water ran through it

I grew up in Henderson Valley beside the Opanuku Stream. When my parents moved there they were told the house was located in a fifty-year flood zone. The first flood arrived when I was only a few years old. The house was raised onto poles and my parents kept on with life. Over the years the floods grew steadily more frequent and ever more deep. They began to sweep down the valley in a wall of water. My neighbour once saw a flash flood rushing towards her as she stood in her garden. One day I narrowly missed being beside the streambank when a wall of water came crashing down.

Eventually the council was forced to admit that subdivision on the ridgeline had increased runoff and worsened the problem. The council bought the family home and after over 30 years my parents packed up and moved to Taranaki. My mother had never lived anywhere other than West Auckland before, but had fallen in love with the mountain.

Now there is only bare land where my house once stood. Oddly I don't feel sad at its loss.

Opanuku Flow
The flood waters came
Ever more frequently and
Ever higher until the counsel
Called time on the house
In the valley where my
Parents lived frozen in
Time and place.
Two cars, a swimming pool
Several fences and
The odd sheep claimed
Over 30 years.
One mother in wet
Cotton nightgown rescued by
Chubby middle-aged fireman in
Jockeys underwear making
Primetime news.

So my parents chose a
Mountain as their new
Place on which to stand and
Moved to Taranaki.
The house stood empty except for
Clandestine visits
Using unsurrendered keys,
Souveniring lost artefacts
From empty rooms.
We got used to being able to
Return at will, grew complacent
That home would always
Be there.

One evening
We received a phonecall
From old neighbours.
The house was on a truck and
Was being removed in the

We mourned from a distance
And when I returned there
Was only dirt where once
There were walls and doors.
I found old jars of preserves
Buried in the clay, bits
Of my first bicycle
Strewn in the grass.
Half ripe Christmas plums
Still clung to the trees my
Grandfather had planted.

It seemed wrong to abandon
These small fragments of
Memory so
We scooped hard fruit into
Supermarket shopping bags,
Dug jars from the earth and
Collected blue sections of
Bike frame.
I grew dizzy looking at
The empty space where
Home had once been.

Now home is a villa on a
Ridge looking out at the mountains.
Horses graze on unmown grass
In empty spaces
While record of human occupation
Is covered by bush.
The water rises and
Steals the final remnants of
Childhood memory.


Catherine said...

An interesting story, I enjoyed reading about your childhood home. Too often these days, councils don't consider all the effects of new subdivisions. I have got used to the habit of most poets these days of not capitalizing the beginnings of lines - the capitals in yours seem to disrupt the flow, you might consider not using them (I know Word puts them in automatically sometimes, which is very annoying if you don't want it to!). Hope you don't mind me suggesting that.

Pip said...

Hi Catherine. Interesting comment about the capitals. I normally take them out as well, but got lazy this time and didn't! So that'll teach me for hurrying.