Tuesday Poem: ‘Fire Alarm’ by Maris O’Rourke

Fire Alarm

After your cremation
he built a bonfire
a small things pyre

our school reports
your clothes
family photos

curls from first haircuts
handmade cards
old letters from Scotland

my cross-stitch tray cloth
three flower paintings
nothing much too much

and then he killed your dog.

Maris bookThis poem comes from Maris O’Rourke’s recently released poetry collection, Singing With Both Throats. Here is what poet, editor and reviewer Siobhan Harvey, who was Maris’s mentor during the writing of this collection, said at the book launch in May:

“Singing With Both Throats takes as its motif thematic and visual, that New Zealand ornithological icon, the tui and its capacity to resonate from two voice-boxes, a concept which O’Rourke utilizes to explore duality in many forms – biculturalism, the dynamics of child-adult relationships and so forth. The examination of cultural and personal doubling is seen vividly in poems like those dedications to her early life experiences, ‘Fire Alarm’ and ‘Engagements’, and, later, in works of belonging such as ‘Harakeke’ and ‘Aotearoa: a Sonnet’.
The most impressive, lasting poems, though, are those incantations to survival like the epic ‘Lifelines’ which stretches over 6 pages and 16 parts and ‘Spells To Tame Children’ which opens with the kind of sting and parental dysfunction one can’t help but be confronted by and self-reflective in light of,
Wear the pram tyres down to the rim; throw in stones and stories as you walk.
Weep in the bath at the never-ending task; drink gin and tonic tears.
Collectively, what you get in Singing with Both Throats is a book as raw as it is accomplished, the poet’s past lives and enduring obsessions informing the arresting imagery and insight, and providing a template for narrator and reader to intersect personal history, poetic travelogue and a survival-map. The result is a work of bite, beauty and intrigue.”

I heard Maris read some of her poetry at Auckland’s Spit.It.Out series in the Fringe Festival earlier this year, and it was a treat. I’m also glad that Maris is so versatile as a writer and has appeared in past issues of Flash Frontier as well.

More more about Maris O’Rourke at her NZ Society of Authors page

Singing With Boat Throats can be purchased in NZ bookshops and online at FishpondMighty Ape or Unity Books.

For an interview with Maris O’Rourke, go to Radio New Zealand here.


Find more poems this week from the energetic mix of Tuesday Poets below. Just click on over to the main hub and see what’s happening.

Tuesday Poem For more Tuesday Poems, go here.

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1 Response to Tuesday Poem: ‘Fire Alarm’ by Maris O’Rourke

  1. I guess this would have to be a true event. I see what is meant by raw and accomplished.

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