Monday, April 30, 2012

Another Clerihew makes it 30

Architect Christopher Wren
redesigned London when
it took a forceful maverick
from ashes hence London brick.

The last brick

Nine thousand nine hundred ninety nine brick:
This last one should do the trick.
I think it will, I think it might
I just have to place it right.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Francis Straub from Pennsylvania
In 1913 had his mania.
He used cinders ‘round the clock
when he invented cinderblock.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

She's a brick. House.

When you slam the door to a wooden house

The whole thing shudders just a little

If you pound the door to see who’s home

The whole thing shakes just a little

Sounds and thumps and bumps and shivers

Reverberate and underpin a weaker state

In any wooden home or shop or store.

But a stone or brick or masonry home is

Solid as Ella Fitzgerald.

Friday, April 27, 2012

High and dry

Masonry arches for making roofs
Covered with timbers again and again
Proving again these basic truths
Stone stops fire, wood stops rain.

A masonry arch alone is strong
For centuries it’s not weak
Stone alone will last so long
But is all too prone to leak.

Cathedrals and churches use a roof
both inside arches made of stone
and outside wood and waterproof
Stone stops fire, dry as bone.

This old tested proven approach
Still works well, still today
Another topic for us to broach
Of thermal mass and its way

To keep a building truly warm
Helps if there is radiant heat
Stored in rock or stony form
For this to work, is a feat

Insulating the outside’s needed
For allowing radiant heat to pass
To the inside unimpeded
Bare stone inside: thermal mass.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fresh water and masonry

People are worried for the future
For themselves, their son or daughter
You may not have enough to suit your
Own and offspring’s need for water.

Rising seas and melting glaciers
Means there’s less than you think
The near future to face yours
Looking for good water to drink

Desalination can use the sea
To make that salty water sweet
But it takes much energy
And pollution we must beat

Far too polluting and unsustainable
So another way is sought
To make fresh water obtainable
So our best ideas are brought

And if a concrete masonry sphere
With very high compressive strength
Is sunk to depth then it is clear
It is an acceptable length

To harvest water through a filter
Using free high pressure of the deep
A concrete sphere, once I built her
To collect that filtered seep

Of freshly filtered sweet clear water
Collected for almost free
For your son or your daughter
If we should do it why can’t we?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Of Circles and Erkels

The strength of an arch is not only found
In a half circle structure over your head
It is also found deep underground
It even occurs deep under seabed.

For an arch is one of those configurations
In a circular tube in a deep long tunnel
Its strength is used to join two separate nations
Like England and France are joined by the Chunnel.

Compression still works in a completed circle
It’s pressed on itself all the way round
You needn’t be a nerd or an Erkel
To know that the arch is the strongest found.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Excavation by denomination

Way back when in olden days
they would build masonry domes
and for support, in a number of ways
they would pile up dirt to support the stones.

When the dome was complete
they’d remove all the dirt,
the dome was left: what a feat
it didn’t fall, nobody hurt

But how’d they get the dirt removed?
it surely was a lot of work
to haul it out so space improved
peasants didn’t want to shirk

responsibility to their king,
so the Lord would hide some money
in the dirt, was the thing
which peasants kept, kinda funny.

Monday, April 23, 2012


If you live where I live
then you know how it goes
sometimes April or May give
more of winter’s snows.

But living in a concrete home
can be pretty neat
the efficiency of a block dome
with a masonry stove for heat.

It doesn’t matter which your
preference is for a house
below is today’s picture
and I’m cozy as a mouse.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nothing new

When I began to innovate
with masonry and its design
I began to contemplate
bold new thoughts seemed in line

But my experience has taught me
there is nothing ever new
my hard experiences brought me
to a realization that a few

people seem to appreciate
what I now know is true
if you stop and contemplate
there is nothing ever new.

A cathedral or an ancient church
epochs and eons older than most
are examined to see how they work
and consult their wandering ghosts.

There is nothing ever new
is what my learning has gotten
there is only that a few
things have been forgotten.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cement's toll

Cement is made by heating mixes
of rock and argillaceous earth
until it forms klinker which is
ground up into cement’s worth.

But making cement is rather sad
because it makes pollution too
the extra output is pretty bad:
way too much more CO2.

Cement made wet will slowly cure
and form hydration products
reabsorbs CO2 for
making chemistry’s odd ducks.

But greener types of cement
are on the near horizon
money for more research is spent
is money that’s spent wise on.

Friday, April 20, 2012


A masonry dome can be seen
as a series of half arches
each across its opposite lean
in and support their largeness.

The dome is like an orange peel
into sections called ‘lunes’
each is heavy though they feel
as light as macaroons.

But at the bottom of the dome
the walls must get thicker
or else cracks start and roam
and spread and crack quicker.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The strong axis

When concrete block are made on a machine
the mix gets compacted in the vertical direction
consolidation in this axis is seen
as the strongest axis upon inspection.

This means the weaker axis is horizontal
and not nearly as strong as it could be
if the block is hit on the side it’s not long ‘til
it breaks and crumbles from flying debris.

Like things will fly in a tornado
will poke holes in regular block
and they will crush like a tomato
what seemed strong is quite a shock.

But if you use my block design
the stronger axis faces out
flying debris? Pay no mind
your building’s safer and more stout.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I'm supposed to write
a poem and I don't
want to.
It doesn't even rhyme you lazy mason.

Marble floors

As you enter a place
and walk through the door
there’s nothing says ‘grace’
like a fine marble floor.

Plain marble block or travertine,
swirling patterns, or just buff
subtle colors, mauve and green
a marble floor is quite enough.

Rugs will wear, wood will rot so
go with stone, colored designs
finely done smooth terrazzo
by skilled hands and artful minds.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Brunelleschi's turnips

Today we use rapid prototypes
made from computer files to show
the shapes in 3-D, stop the gripes
of those who need to know

Just exactly what the thing alone
is, to hold it in your hands
before it’s carved from hard stone
a prototype quickly disbands

Mistaken notions, it’s clear to see
what a designer intended
and makes it easy to be
sure of the work, doubt’s suspended.

But back in Brunelleschi’s day
no rapid prototype craftsmanship
he used his own unique way:
he carved shapes from a turnip.

Carved turnips showed the masons
the shapes he wanted for his work
otherwise he would be facin’
long delays and unclear murk.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Three assumptions

Engineers make 3 assumptions
about masonry as material.
This is a silly, bold presumption
but its use is all too real.

In compression it’s infinitely strong,
second it has no tensile strength,
third: blocks never slide; all wrong!
These three assumptions show the length

to which engineers must go
to see what masonry is today:
that it’s quite strong and it’s slow
to rot or rust from cruel decay.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The five minute rule

An arch is built with supporting bracin'
When the arch is complete, it's taken away.
"If it stands for five minutes", says the mason
"It'll stand 500 years, if a day."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday the 13th!

The Knights Templars
and freemasonry
are best exemplars
of superstitious ennui.

In 1307
13 October,
It wasn’t heaven
‘twas a Friday, sober.

The pope, the king
arrested or killed
the Masonic ring
Bad luck fulfilled!

And so on this day
Masons remembered
the unlucky way
Freemasons dismembered.

The 13th, a Friday:
is not for a monk
it’s a mason’s day
to get stinkin’ drunk.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tragedy unfolds

The tsunami hit and what a mess
the Japanese were not ready
to consider or address
the nuclear reactor was unsteady.

From unsteady to uncooled
from uncooled to exploding
those engineers had been fooled
by their models now imploding.

Build a dome! Masonry containment
robotically assembled
stopping hot rain meant
more than it resembled.

But we are GE and Westinghouse!
And glorious honorable TEPCO!
A giant doesn’t listen to a mouse
we listen to our own reps, so:

Take a hike with your solution.
We have no need for containment
Do not fear nuke pollution
We know best, we’ll use a main tent.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ode to code

Code insists we build with steel
every structure must be built
with a lot of very real
metal rebar, to the hilt.

If a code inspector’s code detector
inspected the pyramids or the pantheon,
it would detect many defect or
would proclaim them woebegone.

Parthenon, cathedral and obelisk
do not meet the code!
The horror and the dangerous risk
of these must be showed.

Tear 'em down, code would say
the first mistake was made
when back in an earlier day
those first plans were laid.

You cannot build a stone building
made with stone and stone alone
because of course it will bring
code inspectors on the phone.

“You cannot make a stone structure
made of stone and stone alone!”
It must have steel for bucks sure
silly, makes me pick this bone.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pilgrimage to Mecca

For me, as a masonry designer
my Mecca and my pilgrimage
was indeed one of the finer
trips I took of a curious age.

To Alpena, Michigan
and Besser Headquarters
is all I could ever wish again
to see them take their orders.

Their excellent concrete block machines
in over a hundred countries
producing block ‘round the clock it seems
mixers, makers and sundries.

Provided by this one great company
for concrete manufacturing
their own equipment will trump any
the history from which they spring!

In the basement of their museum
I snuck down to the old machine
when I knew they couldn’t see ‘em,
I played with levers seldom seen.

What intrigued me the very most
was the odd, weird, and eerie sensation
by the machine stood Besser’s ghost:
offering me faint congratulation.

Monday, April 9, 2012


The first laid block
is about preparation
whether stone or rock
it's determination.

From it shall spring
all that succeeds:
walls which will bring
a roof and its eaves.

But if that first block's
without foundation
or if that first rock's
bad figuration

confound and postpone
plumb level and right.
A bad cornerstone
will be your blight.

Inspect and be sure
confirm every way
your work will endure
If the first block's OK.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Whether the weather

A warm sunny day, dry as a bone
perfect weather for building a home.
When it's raining the mason's OK,
to sling that mortar another day.
Damp, hot or foggy, sun scorched or cool;
all fine weather for a mason to tool.
But trying to lay frozen block is a bitch,
just ask Ivan Denisovich.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Shovel ready

Sometimes a mason just has to dig dirt.
No shame, no problem, doesn't really hurt,
it's the kind of thing one must not shirk.
Some will say "that's why they call it work!"
But with all the dirt dug and the work done
good and ready for the next rising sun.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Westminster Abbey and I was seven.
I questioned God but this was heaven.

The warmth of a masonry stove

Of all the cool tricks in a mason’s own trove
are none quite so warm as a masonry stove.
The flame paths turn and tortuously twist
extending its length so its heat isn’t missed.
by warming the rock and the stone and the brick
and sinking its warmth into stove walls so thick
it gives off something to warm your cold feet:
a deep penetrating radiant heat.
This warmth will go from your feet to your head
as you smell those loaves of freshly baked bread.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Julie Andrews, Mason

Red brick on pallets and freshly filled mortarboards
arches built properly braced with both arc and chords
level and even and bright mason strings
these are a few of my favorite things!

Carved stone gargoyles and huge massive cornerstones
compass and angle or a skull and two crossed bones
high flying buttresses spreading their wings
these are a few of my favorite things!

Sprung arches vaulted by their intradoses
stronger by weight on their own extradoses
inherent strength from the weight that it brings
these are a few of my favorite things!

When the wood rots when the rust rings
when I’m feeling sad
I simply remember
my favorite things
and then I don’t feel so bad!

Red brick on pallets and mortar in wheelbarrow
beds all placed just right not too wide or narrow
level and even and bright mason strings
these are a few of my favorite things!

Monday, April 2, 2012

I feel fine

Mangled fingers gingerly swab
bruised knuckles gently rub
the mud on my torn knee.
The cracked skin stings
and it all feels good
because I know I’m alive.
Gimme another brick there,
will ya bub?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April is Poetry month, redux

April is here, and it’s National Poetry Writing Month again! Oh nooo!!!! Napowrimo!

I was asked if I planned to write poems again. No, I do not plan to write a poem about masonry every day this month. I already did, last year. But they need work. Not so much editing as tuck-pointing. Some should simply be demolished and their rubble used as fill in other, more satisfying structures. None are really good enough. Ok, now I’m annoyed. Damn it Jim! I’m a mason, not a poet. Here we go.

The Idea

It didn’t just occur, it evolved
seeming simple to me
like it simply naturally solved
how a building should be.

How little did I know at the time
I was trying to change
both the old reason and the known rhyme
to something utterly strange.

Block are never triangular things,
block are rectangular.
Mice eat cheese, dogs chase cats, birds have wings
Boston has its Strangler.

"Do not doubt: or question basic truths.
Concrete block cannot be
successfully used to make arching roofs!"
They kept on telling me.

But this idea was stuck in my head
so I went and made it.
Hopefully somehow before I am dead
not all people hate it.