Suddenly the place is overrun with Europeans.
Suddenly there is a Maori in your backyard.
Suddenly you need to shit but can't and need to hold on because suddenly where and what you grew up believing would always be there is no longer.
Suddenly you are eyeing the soft ground beneath the neighbour's peach tree.
Suddenly new phrases are heard - ‘Keep away from the trees!' - invented in Cashel Street the moment the ground rolled back like carpet.
Suddenly the language that had settled like brick and mortar will no longer do. Gosh. Holy shit. Fuck me. Oh Oh Oh. Fucking hell. What? What? What? Man oh man! Crikey fucking dick. Bloody hell. Unbelievable. Unbelievable.
Suddenly all that is found wanting - it was made for settled times.
Suddenly there is a Maori in your hallway.
Suddenly a pakeha is on your beach.
You still need to shit.
Suddenly you think, what if and where is that someone? And why this, here and now, and why today of all days, and is there not an alternative to a headshake? And repeating, endlessly - ‘Unbelievable. It's unbelievable.'
Because suddenly the world is fluid, the old order of stability the bricks and the mortar the roads the old pleasing lines are out of whack and quite suddenly like never before everything is flushed up so the finished order is broken and the ingredients are proud displays like the thing the cat brought in spat up fetid and slimy with old life and stink and suddenly this is your life and there it is, spilled dehocked besmocked and fucked squally and dripping. Suddenly your world is a flopped cake and the old language of fucking hell bloody hell what the where is and what are the thin squeals of a grasshopper in the eye of a storm.
Suddenly the boundary fence is no longer.
What was is now rubble and there is a woman squatting beneath your peach tree.
A clothesline on a wind lean, half-mast, the flop of sheets slurring in the thick grey soup.
Windows that won't shut, the fuckers.
Doors and jamb at odds like the fallout of a long-forgotten quarrel.
The forlorn sight of a curtain sucked out a broken city hotel window.
After is the sound of shovels scratching away on the bitumen, and the noise of demolition and of trucks carrying the rubble away from the city, through the tunnel to Lyttelton Harbour, where the crater hills of an ancient volcano glimmer with memory of sailing ships at anchor and long lines of settlers zigzagging up the Port Hills, white ants in bonnets and top hats shouldering pickaxes and shovels, loaded up with English seed and pastoral memory to slap over the swamplands and waterways; there are churches to be built, gardens to plan, parks to measure out from oak to oak, now all that is broken up, a pile of rubble falling through the harbour waters to rest against the old tug and claw marks on the sea bed made by anchor and chain of sailing ships.
After was a headshake, eyes bright or as dead as smoke.
After you couldn't raise your voice to shout at the kids.
After there was a tender regard and a brave smile here and there and after that came the moment of rot sitting in your slippered feet in grey silt staring at the pointless television.
After was the starlight crashing through the hole of the bedroom ceiling.
After were the grim investigations and grim vigil and grim talk of those who Fate had done no favour. After came the long summation, a shirt hanging out the trouser end.
After saw traffic head out of the broken city in numbers that made the Alps faint with apprehension.
After came the disorienting effects of driving through a city without familiar landmarks.
After a writer to the newspaper thought ‘a remnant of the Press Building should be left to reference the past', the ancient forests howled with glee.