Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday Poem: Ruamoko, trainwrecker

If you study a map of the South Island’s fault lines
you will notice that they resemble a railway
marshalling yard. The main trunk line is the big bugger,
the trans-alpine fault, running up the spine of the island.

Somewhere near Murchison, it breaks north-east and forms
a series of branch and shunting lines which meet the sea
at Marlborough before chunneling under Cook Strait.

But if you zoom into that junction at Murchison and search
until you find the Train Controller’s box – one of those

buildings on four legs from which the points are operated –
focus in again and look closely through the windows.
There you will see a Train Controller, bound and gagged,
with a look of horror on his face. Ruamoko, eyes shut
and grinning, is playing with the point-setting levers.

I wrote this poem recently and it is the last in my Ruamoko series - a small collection of 14-line poems that reference the god of earthquakes (and volcanoes - sorry Aucklanders). I've posted it because I haven't posted in a while, mainly because my blog took some unplanned time out over the last month and a half. Thanks to help from fellow Tuesday Poem poets Tim Jones and Helen McKinlay, I have managed to resuscitate it.

Visit Tuesday Poem for more poems this week.


  1. Great to see you back on line Keith! Love this poem such a unique approach..with its use of train imagery. Very clever.

    1. Thanks Helen. What the poem doesn't say is that the marshaling yards re-emerge from Cook Strait in Wellington and the Wairarapa. The scientists tell us that they aren't continuous under the Strait, but I wonder what Ruamoko would make of that statement.

  2. There's a timelessness here, and universality, and a wonderful mischievousness that reminds me of Kabir, the 15 century Indian poet, whose closing lines, like yours, invariably bring an otherwise controlled poetic journey to a thrilling and unexpected destination. And speaking of India, Nehru said: "The railway, the life-give, has always seemed to me like iron bands confirming and imprisoning..." Maybe NZ was too disruptive -- or eruptive -- to be tamed by the crown. Maybe India needed Ruamoko in its plains, more earthquakes, to derail its conquerors.

    1. Thanks Zireaux - who knows, perhaps Ruamoko was Gandhi's alter ego.


Search This Blog