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Earthquake Engineering




Half of California looks as though it’s on the verge of crumbling completely

condo buildings on dried-out, eroded hills.

Mariposa loam turned chalky, under paltry stilts

propping up the building’s foundation

like some kind of suicidal dare against the next earthquake.






Right next door sits an old victorian

impossibly lofted on a hill four stories high

when every neighboring house cut into or demolished

its way into the earth. A madman’s flight of stairs

climbs from the curb to the front door

half a block back, half a block skyward.


The houses next door built retaining walls and new foundation

to hem in the soil. The victorian towers in its monumental instability

a foreboding, fragile as a dollhouse

while its neighbors offer layers of concrete to lean on

some strained and cracking under the pressure of the earth, already

as if to say: it’s only a matter of time.

Emily Pinkerton