Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Poem: The Tyvek House

A couple of years ago I wrote the following poem which was published in The River magazine edited by my friend Elaine Restifo of Lambertville, NJ. Because there is such a plethora of poetry publications I stick to submitting my award-losing poetry to journals where I personally know the editor. Good thinking, Ruthie! We sure hate rejection letters. Editors are excruciatingly inscrutable and inconsistent. Poetry is so extremely personal. Who knows? Maybe the only reason Elaine put my poem in her magazine is cuz I said I like her chili con carne!

The poem below is totally fabricated. It is however based on a house on a street around the corner from me. I finally got the nerve - just today - to mail them a copy of the poem with a brief cover letter.

I shared the cover letter and the poem with my "news group." I believe this is the proper term, right Bendesky, trained scientist? One member of my news group called me and said What a beautiful poem, you should be published. Two other people wrote back "Lemme know if you hear from the Tyvek people."

I am certain I will never hear from the Tyvek people. Instead I will content myself with viewing their house from inside my car, slowing down as I drive by, looking over the smooth curved lines of their modern-looking wooden structure so pleasing to the eye. "Thank you," I said in the last line of my letter, "for having one of the most beautiful homes I've ever seen."


Tyvek is an insulation material applied to the interior of buildings before application of the final material such as wood or stone or siding.

Take this old house by the side of the road
Walk past its leaf-filled ditch and muddy garden
Rip out its walls and doorways
Stay there, don’t move,
Walk among the heaps of plasterboard,
the piles of rubble still unswept
Let it sear you, rush like water through you
And bring you no peace.

Don’t come and fetch me.
I’ll stay here among the ruins,
Quiet, dream-filled,
Lonesome as a stairwell,
Ringing like a bell,
One of a kind,
The house where I live.

Did you mark the days when they
Hammered the outer boards
Across the falling rot of splintered wood?
Did you see how frisky they were
Those laugh-aloud fun-finding fellows
stationed so effortlessly
on tall hinged ladders,
Three of them I counted, workmen
Bouncing words from roof to roof,
Or were they manly jokes,
Nails echoing clang clang
as they went in.
Thick-soled boots snug on tall rungs.

How we couldn’t help but laugh
the day the letters appeared – TYVEK -
blue, dark as mountains,
you’d know those letters anywhere –
ponytailed Y
Take-me-along K pointing off,
Off in the distance at some lonesome star.
How we rejoiced and continue to rejoice
at the coming of the words.

Leave it to us to notice from our
One unstained window
the predicament of the motorists
and the ditch-leaping joggers passing by,

Each one waiting,
querying among themselves,
When will it be finished?
When will the Tyvek be covered up for good?

Didn’t we fool them?
Didn’t we cause consternation?
We simply couldn’t do it.

We let the Tyvek stay.

- Ruth Z. Deming

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