This poem is a marriage of prompt and memory.
The prompt was simple: If the shifting foundation of a house could speak, what would it say?
I’m not sure what drew me to this question. I think that, at the time, I was interested in the interplay between stability and change (I’ve written poems about glaciers in the past that take on similar ideas). Early drafts of the poem were written from the perspective of the stone foundation itself.
The memory was simple, as well: A few years ago, my husband and I were considering buying a house. One of the first houses we viewed had a floor so crooked that you could drop a quarter on one side of the house and it would roll all the way to the other side.
As I revised, I became more interested in highlighting the voice, language, and perspective of the engineer who might study, diagnose, and (ideally) prevent foundation collapse. I researched some of their technical jargon and tried to work it into the poem.
In later stages of revision, I became more and more concerned with tiny decisions about syntax and sound. There were many stages of revision at this point, and each one happened very quickly. That part of the process felt a lot like combing through the poem in order to produce its smoothest and most perfect iteration. I would read the lines over and over again, thinking “yes” or “no” and making small but (I believe) significant changes in response to those gut instincts.
Towards the end, I was going for a cadence that was truly conversational while packing a lyrical punch, of sorts. I also wanted the conversational syntax to collide with the poems abstractions and logical leaps, leaving us to wonder—just what kind of “engineers” are these, exactly? The poem became (as my poems often are) terse, enigmatic, evoking more than it is describing directly. And of course, I ended up once again utilizing the couplet form (which I like for its mysterious economy).
At any rate, I decided this poem was finished when I could find no more tangles through which to comb.