Foundation

by Matthew M. Cariello

Clutter in the vestibule
where steps buckled
and mortar cracked,
I watched my father
crawl into the dark
beneath the stoop
to prop up a failure
in the foundation
with a moment of faith
across the gap
steel pipe, chicken
wire and cement.
I peered within the space
between holding up and
breakthrough, learned
the way he’d brace
himself to the tasks
at hand.  A muttered
phrase or sigh or
whistle, the tapping
foot, crossed arms,
the sharp echo
and flash and smoke
of a match struck
before his face to meet
the cigarette’s judgment.
At times his patience
cracked, for this work
wasn’t his job of life.
The reluctant hammer slipped,
the trowel gouged when
it should have smoothed,
underpinnings he’d
constructed slipped
and tore.  I watched
and learned to watch,
and wait, and rebuild
what had been razed
and razed again.
After three days among
the dust and chiseling,
coughs and scuffs and scrapes
of wet cement,
he emerged white as ash.
Beating dust from
his body, shielding his
eyes against the light,
my father laughed
as he left the dark.