Maureen Sudlow was born in New Zealand in 1944 - a war baby - and intends to be the 'Grandma Moses' of writing. She has lived in most areas of New Zealand as her husband was in the NZ Air Force. She says, ‘I've got lots of rejection slips on the walls of my study but have had a few poems published.’ Maureen recently completed a Diploma in Creative Writing with Whitireia and has been short-listed for the 2012 Storylines Joy Cowley Award.
My mother died in between the Christchurch earthquakes – not as a result of them, but simply too tired to worry about staying alive. So in December 2010, after the quake in September, I went home to say my last goodbyes. Even then the city was shattered, worse than I had expected.
When I visited the Arts Market I could see a lot of quake damage, more so among the stone buildings of the old University. Many parts of the complex werestill cordoned off, with scaffolding very much in evidence. However, despite the damage and the drizzle, most of the market stalls were doing good trade. In the centre of it all an adult choir in white robes were singing Christmas carols with brass band back-up. The spirit of the place was amazing. Everywhere there were smiling faces and friendly chatter. On the footpath was a large cupola that had been carefully removed from the Great Hall. Incongruously, it had been decorated with Christmas lights.
But I felt as though I was walking in the ruins of my life. I found it hard to grasp that my mother was no longer there..
We lifted your coffin.
You were light,
the husk of a seed
winnowed by wind.
But when I held
in my hands
of sinew, blood, and bone
that once defined
the limits of your life,
my arms were stretched
with the weight
of my grief.
Back home in Northland, and the February quake struck Christchurch with devastating intensity. I knew then that my childhood was finally lost and finished with. My mother and my hometown were gone – or changed beyond all recognition. This was a lonely place in the journey of my life...
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