Tuesday Poem: All Over by Helen Lowe

All Over

On that first afternoon
it was all about noise:
sirens, the continual tuk-tuk-tuk
of helicopters, and the slow drone
of planes airlifting in supplies—noise
and the smell of smoke
hanging in a pall
across the inner suburbs
as the CTV building burned.

But in the days following
I recall the silence of a city
where daily business had all but ceased,
cars off the road, people staying home—
or fled. And at night, the profound darkness
of a power blackout. On the evening
when the street lights blinked back on
we were out walking in the blue dusk:
the light overhead flick-flick-flickered –
then the whole street was bathed
in saffron haze, illuminating
the far side of the road
and a friend outside the wreckage
that had once been her business.

My friend’s father, helping her,
had just lost his home, and she,
looking dry-eyed at collapsed bricks,
said simply: “It’s over. It’s all over.”

© Helen Lowe, 2011

I'm in Christchurch which was changed forever by three huge earthquakes - September 4th 2010, February 22nd 2011 and June 13 2011.  I was there for the first earthquake and the terrible aftershocks (more than 90 in the first 24 hours) and still remember the horror of it.  Helen's poem captures the surreal atmosphere, the sounds, the images, the stoicism of people caught up in the destruction of their lives.   I felt it was a fitting commemoration of what the people of Christchurch, and the surrounding countryside, have been through. Thank you Helen for letting me post it here.

Helen Lowe is an award-winning (as in big, international awards) Christchurch poet and novelist, author of Thornspell, the Heir of Night, and the Gathering of the Lost.  Check out her publications and her website here.

Please take a look at the Tuesday Poem Hub for more poetry and check out the Tuesday Poets' contributions in the sidebar.  It's a feast of poetry!


  1. At the start of the poem - one two lines in - it feels like a poem about a war zone... and then you realise. It's not all right down there even now, is it Kathleen? Helen's poem is a powerful reminder of that. Good to have you here in NZ. See you soon.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Mary--but you're right, it's still a very long way from being "all right" here.


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