A special friend named Olive

The anniversary of the Pike River Coal disaster is bitter sweet for member Michele Leggott, because it also marks the time when she received her guide dog, Olive.

Here is her poem, Olive, initially published in Otoliths (http://the-otolith.blogspot.com/2011/03/michele-leggott-olive.html), which captures those first few moments.

olive

the day of the explosion they postpone 
her arrival    two men walk out and agony
begins its clinch    we crouch by the radio
unable to help    thinking they could all be dead   
hoping for a miracle twenty nine times
the size of a mountain in the eye of a needle
stitching blue heaven to green earth
let them walk out let them walk out alive 

it is too dangerous    when they bring
her at last three days have gone by    each
more terrible than the one before    angels
look out of the eyes of this dog who is here
because I am blind and the world is huge
with possibility    we walk her in a raw wind
not knowing we shouldn’t    a mistake
that costs but is not the end of the world
under the dark mountain of sorrow

when they show the dust blasting
out of the portal for fifty seconds    we know
there is no hope but listen as machines prepare
to enter the shaft    today I learned how to comb
how to check ears eyes nose teeth and all over
for the baseline that is hands on a warm body

when the drill breaks through    the images
show that nobody reached the oxygen refuge
when they find a cap lamp still flickering
in the camera’s eye four and a half days
and a kilometre in    we go out for the first time
just around the block    only to hear
there’s been another explosion

dog    I hold my breath as you take us
into the world I can’t see    each day
a little further a little more command a little
sliver of hope under the dark mountain
where fear waits with its next fuse
and rescue is unlikely any time soon

from all over the world gear and advice
pours in    a third explosion sets the coal burning
deep underground    the trapped miners
become the lost men    the men who lost their lives  
and finally the entombed men    now they gag the mine
starving the fire of oxygen and the violent language
of despair cries out upon us    threading the path
between light and darkness pain and rage
care and the undoing of everything we cared for

my dog how can you move with such grace
through these days    pulling sea and sky along
with you under the red-flowering trees    mixing it
up and down the road with all comers    this is not peace
but motion    ten thousand people looking up
the valley to a dip in the ranges while someone sings
You’ll Never Walk Alone    not peace but motion
what is her name they ask me and I say
she has been here since the start    her name is Olive

Visit the Otoliths blog: http://the-otolith.blogspot.com/2011/03/michele-leggott-olive.html

Learn more about Michele Leggott at: http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/authors/leggott/index.asp

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