Rebecca Foust


on reading my daughter’s soil engineering thesis

A sine wave will go a long way and not fade; 
it will be drunk by the roots 

of the house, then by the ground: Surface waves, 
Body waves. And Love waves

—transverse motions perpendicular to the vector 
of propagation—

that is, love is a wave that itself nulls. 
It’s not the quake that kills,

but subsurface structural failure. Not the war, 
but those who did nothing 

to stop it; not the affair, but what the marriage 
was not built on. 	

In resonance, soil waves swell when they meet 
other waves—a passing train,

crickets that hit the same note at the same time; 
then like a great bowl the earth tips, 

land masses sliding like pudding to the one side, 
and big things fall down and we die. 

Big things fall down and we die, and why is always
the question we ask without answer

and still must ask. But you, daughter, with your steel
-toed boots and cans of white spray paint 

and little colored flags on stakes, you are now 
the one holding up the world’s buildings

and bridges, and next time I cross one while a train 
trundles by, I’ll think of Love Waves, 

how we thwart what we cherish, and risk being 
too much in tune with the breath 

and pulse of the world, and I’ll thank physics or God 
for the spark that joined spark 

to ignite you. And give praise that keeping the world 
from flying apart is now less and less my job. 

Yes, the tide goes out and waves ebb; in the still hour 
the world is withdrawn. But you, Love, 

will wave to me from the bridge rampart. You’ll be wearing 
your hard hat. And you will go on.