Earthquake Afterthought by Philip Burton
Our terrier has shaken herself off.
All the shuddering now is done by us
clasping the duvet, a chair, and each other.
No collapse of roof and walls, so far,
but my all-seeing infant messenger
turns and points. "That wasn't there
that blowhole in the floorboard!"
"Just a knothole," I almost correct her
but don't; asbestos dust fountains out
in a miniature plume. Lovely in its way
till muted clicks transmute to the scream
of a misplaced cliff-ledge chick
whose breakthrough peck inside the shell
has tipped herself and egg into the sea.
We huddle in our feather bags and text
a neighbour ─ carpenter by persuasion ─
an upright man ─ to advise on signs
of the imminent fall of a building. "Bless you"
he says, "witnesses are hard to find."
I hold a firm young hand and we creep
down the creased and jumbled stairs.