Pick-a-Poem: Rebecca Foust


Happy Wednesday, blog readers! I hope you’re all having a good week so far. If your week is starting to lag, and you feel like you might need some poetry to perk you up, then you’ve come to the right place! Each week we feature a poem from someone whose work you may not have read before. And we find these poems through Poetry Daily, a great website that features new poetry every single day. This week we feature Dynamic Response of Multi-Layered Soil Media in the Frequency Domain by Rebecca Foust.

According to her bio page, Rebecca Foust has written several books, two of which are All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song (Many Mountains Moving, 2010) and God, Seed (Tebot Bach, 2010). She has recently received fellowships from The Frost Place and The MacDowell Colony. Her work has already appeared or is forthcoming in The Hudson Review, Sewanee Review, and Southern Poetry Review.

Dynamic Response of Multi-Layered Soil Media in the Frequency Domain by Rebecca Foust

       Written while reading my daughter’s master’s thesis


Catastrophic failures in buildings during seismic events:
big things fall down and kill us all.

u = horizontal displacement, v = vertical displacement:
shear strength, shear stress, sheer shear.

A & B are arbitrary constants. i is an imaginary number term:
M is still mass and T still time.

Imagine the earth a great bowl, tipped—the landmass slid
like a pudding to one side.

When you were five you ran to my room and cried,
“The rain’s in my room, Mom.”

“Oh, Hon,” I said, “It’s just a storm. There’s no rain
in your room.” But when I led you

back to your bed I saw where the roof had failed. The crust
of the earth is not just crumbs of dirt

but a great long wave knit in a series of waves, liquid
as blood

and “load” any force that can induce dirt to move more
than it already moves.

Not just a quake, but the wind. Breath. Jump on the bed,
shout too loud. A sine wave

will go a long way and not fade. It will roll down the roots
of the house and be drunk by ground

into Surface waves and Body waves. And, Love waves
—transverse motions perpendicular

to the vector of propagation—that is, love is a wave
that itself nulls. It is not the quake that kills,

but subsurface structural failure. Not the war,
but the people who failed

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

It began with a tremor in my left thumb. It began
with a twitch in my eye.

Resonance occurs when the natural frequency of soil
is met by a frequency forced by a dynamic load.

A train might pass, geese honk on a beat, crickets hit
the same note at the same time,

then waves join and amplify and big things fall down
and we die.

You, daughter, with your work boots and spray paint
and little colored pennants on stakes,

you are the one to hold back the roar and weight
of the trains,

the one to gauge the links of the chains that hold up
the world’s bridges.

Next time I drive across one while a train trundles by,
I’ll think of Love waves,

how we thwart what we hold dear. And of the risks of being
too much in tune

with the breath and pulse of the world. I’ll rig a hitch
in my gait

and 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, life’s tide

goes out, waves ebb. In the still hour the world is withdrawn.
But you, daughter,

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

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poem! For more of these poems, click here!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan


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