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Martin’s 2014 Christmas Poem

Is that a raven tapping on my window?

Posted on Dec 19 2014 by Martin Holladay

With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary,
    while I pondered, weak and weary,
Many unpaid bills and letters
    from my local big-box store —
While I nodded, nearly napping,
    suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping,
    rapping at my office door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered,
    “tapping at my office door —
        Only this and nothing more.”

Hard it was to count my blessings; tired, I was still obsessing,
Worried sick about the morrow. Vainly I had sought to borrow
Backhoes, skid steers, excavators — tools I needed for the pour,
For the concrete pour tomorrow — (deadline I could not ignore).
Daily problems now beset me, avalanching, more and more:
        Ibuprophen — still I’m sore.

Was I cheerful? No sir! no sir! — Christmas looming ever closer,
Weather's yucky; snow is sopping; idiots and fools are shopping.
From Seattle to Atlanta, every corner has a Santa.
My financial state was dire; unpaid bills were piling higher;
Christmas carols always blaring — with these woes, I was past caring.
        Ibuprophen! I need more!

Now the wind was loudly whipping through the leaky entry door,
Reminding me the weatherstripping had worn out — it was no more.
“When will I have time to seal up holes through which the breezes pour?
Air that seeks the unsealed cracks, the leaky window, broken door?
As the stack effectAlso referred to as the chimney effect, this is one of three primary forces that drives air leakage in buildings. When warm air is in a column (such as a building), its buoyancy pulls colder air in low in buildings as the buoyant air exerts pressure to escape out the top. The pressure of stack effect is proportional to the height of the column of air and the temperature difference between the air in the column and ambient air. Stack effect is much stronger in cold climates during the heating season than in hot climates during the cooling season. gets stronger, fuel bills increase more and more.
        Chills affect me to my core.”

Soberly assessing matters, with my business all in tatters,
(Thinking, in my leaky hovel: “Am I in a Dickens novel?”)
Saddened by my future prospects — still I saw the comic aspects
As I heard the gentle tapping, rapping at my office door.
Winter winds were cruelly nipping, tearing at my weatherstripping;
        Rattling my crappy door.

Several questions now I pondered, as my tired mind still wandered:
How would I repair these problems — leaky ceiling, leaky floor?
Spray foam all the leaks galore? (Fifteen holes I see, or more.)
Plastic storms? The wind just rips ’em. Plaster cracks need brand-new gypsum.
Caulk I have, but need some more; I'll get some at the big-box store:
        Dollars spent for every chore.

Weak and tired, lily-livered, I despaired and often shivered,
Till I heard the irksome tapping somewhat louder than before,
Through the double-hungs I’m peering; rattling is all I’m hearing.
Let me see, then, what is rapping at the window or the door,
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore:
        ’Tis the wind and nothing more!

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with quite a fuss and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Then a thoughtless dropping made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my office door —
Perched upon a bust of Lstiburek just above my office door —
        Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

This eccentric bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the pompous, stiff decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though your feathers are half-shaven, bird,” I said, “you don't seem craven.
As my home transmutes to rubble, can I save this leaky hovel?
Creaky shack with freezing spaces, plagued by hidden plumbing chases?”
        Quoth the raven, “Blower door.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer still confused me — cryptic birds are known to lose me —
Still I cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his office door —
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his office door,
        Who said clearly, “Blower door.”

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
Those two words, as if his soul in those two words he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered.—
“Will you help me solve my problems? Slow the infiltration goblins?
Stop the wind that curtains fluttered?” Many questions thus I muttered.
        Then the bird said, “Blower door.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store,
Learned from some unhappy master, felled by some unknown disaster,
Auditor or hapless rater, home performance undertaker,
Trying to eke out a living, one who many burdens bore,
        Saying only, ‘Blower door.’”

But the raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled my office chair in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the cushion sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this dreary bird of yore —
What this loud-mouth, messy, pet-store reject, oddball bird of yore
        Meant in croaking “Blower door.”

Then, methought, the air grew colder, winter winds becoming bolder;
Blown by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee — by these angels he hath sent thee
To advise me on my problems. Yes, I need a blower door!
Now I see a pathway forward! This will ease my coming chore!”
        Quoth the Raven, “Blower door.”

Now I’m old — I’m 67. “Prophet?” said I, “Sent from heaven?
Whether Zeus above has sent thee, or a storm brought thee ashore,
Now you speak! So wise, undaunted! Is this drafty room enchanted?
This old house by air leaks haunted? Tell me truly, I implore:
Will I ever know true comfort? Tell me — tell me, I implore!”
        Quoth the raven, “Blower door.”

On the morrow, all inspired, I arose, no longer tired,
And I hired — now, not later! — a willing home performance rater;
Setting up, it seemed, took ages: vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). tent-work, pressure gauges;
Eagerly I walked — no, ran up! — helped him set the crimson fan up.
Twenty pascals! Air is rushing! Thirty pascals! Forty! More!
        Thanks, almighty blower door!

Fifty pascals were revealing, helping me with all the sealing;
Cracks and leaks were plain as day now. Everything will be OK now.
Then I smiled, feeling silly — squirting spray foam, willy-nilly!
Yet the raven, never flitting — (now my pet) — is calmly sitting
On the pallid bust of Lstiburek just above my office door;
        Still he mutters, “Blower door.”

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas from the Energy Nerd. Martin's previous holiday greetings include Casey Makes a Bet, The Energy Grinch, his Macbeth parody, his parodies of Christmas carols, and his parody of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Tags: , , ,

Dec 19, 2014 6:44 AM ET

Thanks Master
by Marc Labrie

I'm blown away by another masterpiece!

Dec 19, 2014 9:15 AM ET

I am bit pedanticer.
by stephen sheehy

Who knew we've been graced by the poet laureat of Vermont all these years, composing verse as he shivers by the wood stove, scribbling with his quill pen upon a piece of slate? Inspired, perhaps, by a bit of Terry's hemp?

Well done, Martin!!

Dec 19, 2014 10:49 AM ET

Insane Martin
by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a


Dec 19, 2014 11:34 AM ET

by Dan Kolbert

Trips much better off the tongue than The Telltale Temperature/RH Data Logger.

Dec 19, 2014 1:15 PM ET

Careful now...
by Lucas Durand - 7A

Was I cheerful? No sir! no sir! — Christmas looming ever closer,
Weather's yucky; snow is sopping; idiots and fools are shopping.

Or the Christmas cheer extremists may come string you up with tinsel ;-)

Dec 19, 2014 2:30 PM ET

Poet and didn't even know it!
by Richard Beyer

Nice job Martin! ;0)

Dec 19, 2014 4:28 PM ET

A Poet, a Raven and Man's best friend, a Blower Door
by Debra Glauz

I've been inspired

Dec 19, 2014 5:15 PM ET

Fantastic! Btw, it's good to
by Eric Habegger

Fantastic! Btw, it's good to know others also have the good taste to have a Lstiburek bust sitting prominently in their home. I got mine at Home Depot. They make an excellent gift for people in the know at this season. I'm a little worried about it's provenance though. It's extremely light weight, as if it's made of polystyrene. It's also blue. I haven't yet located the signature of the artist on it but am sure I will find it soon.

Dec 21, 2014 2:18 PM ET

Talented Writer you are!
by Robert Opaluch

Not only a prolific writer of green non-fiction, but a creative poet as well!

I enjoy reading your articles very much, very informative and easy to read.

Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Holidays to Holladay and to all!

Dec 22, 2014 11:44 AM ET

Poetic Irony
by Kent Jeffery

Adding to the commendations of others, I agree.... Nicely Done!

And, just completed my blower door test last week!

Merry Christmas

Dec 22, 2014 1:08 PM ET

Where Building Science and Poetry Intersect...
by Griffin Hagle

Well-done! I've always enjoyed reading this blog but you've outdone yourself with this. I think I'm going to treat our office to a dramatic reading on Christmas Eve.

Dec 24, 2014 3:58 PM ET

A great year end tradition
by Bill Smith

Thank you Martin. I look forward to this each year now. No pressure, but I can't wait 'til next year.

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