The Weather Bomb
February began with firewatch skies,
a glare that flared off of hot metal cans,
gangs of lawn-mowers chanting mantras,
and an anticyclone calm which lasted for days.
Then came a sky that swelled like sludge.
Slowly, as if lockjawed, on the bludge,
rain fronted up just to lair about,
before turning whirling dervish on Valentine’s Day.
All night the storm bustled, strong as a haka.
Dawn sobbed out stories of baby raindrops,
backpacked in from the Tasman Sea blast zone,
only to thump down hard on Wellington.
The gale, a howler,
sank teeth into Cook Strait,
as Arahura bucked slovenly swells and,
churning in the wallow and the bluster,
sought to scurry for safe harbour.
Monsoon buckets tipped from sky hooks.
Pinwheel waterfalls trampled ground.
Waka paddles beat time over towns.
Broken hills slid and slumped.
Bedraggled colours swam together.
Soakage gathered its fugitive power.
In Rangitikei things washed away with gurgles:
trains derailed, cars flipped, stock swam for it.
Branches flailed like Silver Ferns defending;
trees fell like failed tackles against blocks
and stiff arm stops of the All Blacks rampant.
Floodwaters rose in tannin and cinnamon,
like a giant teetotaller slurping,
and purled through public bar yak
to raise the hair on necks and backs.
The Manawatu burst its banks,
running to and fro seawards,
not with fun fair’s happy splash,
but awash in stray rubbish,
and market garden veges
that were uprooted far inland.
Pozzies were scoured by washtub swirl.
Rivers lunged with pack mentality,
zigzagging through the Horowhenua,
postcard country chewed to cardboard cud.
Half Te Ika a Maui flapped towards the sea,
gumbooted newsreaders gazing flabbergast
at what materialised through the tyre-spray:
cows winched skywards by whirlybirds;
household holdouts with frontier fences
that wobbled then gave way to overflow
entering on the sly from culverts.
Rivers, smiling, crawled indoors,
strong enough to
bury houses with water,
fill plates with mudcake,
and knot beds with fence wire.
The greedy sky scoffed it all down:
villas marooned behind liquid walls;
herds floating to higher ground;
evacuees shaking hair dry in halls;
the bedraggled crowding round
dramas that pulsed like heartbeats;
rain hawking its triumph in the streets.
David Eggleton is a Dunedin-based poet and writer. He has published five collections of poetry. His most recent collection is Fast Talker, published in 2006 by Auckland University Press.
Eggleton comments: ‘ “The Weather Bomb” is a poem that derives from an extremely powerful storm that struck the lower half of the North Island of New Zealand in February 2004. It seemed, in its magnitude and intensity, to be a transforming event, an epic moment with many resonances.’