The Invention of Joy
Written By: Ted Deppe
(Poem from Liminal Blue, Forthcoming from Arlen House in 2016)
They’re often asked how they invented
such a thing, and to hear him
tell it, it had something to do with the time clocks
being overworked for weeks,
even something to do with a quarrel,
and she says it came after an illness
and during a time when even the birds
seemed stressed and worried.
Both agree that one morning she proposed
they have a date after lunch, when the storm
would hit, and everything that morning —
the way the wind started wailing,
the way spume shimmered as it shawled
off breakers, the sound the cork made
as wine appeared before noon —
And when was there last such a storm?
Hurricane-force gusts, but sunlight, no rain,
a day when everything
raced toward them and shone.
When the house began to tremble,
they were the waves teased into whirlwinds
and also the point beneath those waves
that moved in circles and held still.
They were the ripples of flame
at the bedspread’s edge,
and the raised glass, the sunlit Chianti,
and just like that it came to them,
the invention of the flying bicycle
built for two,
wheels within wheels
and then the twelve wings and then the lift off.
No one asks how they came up with the name for it:
Afterglow. That one seems
self-evident, but it was the name of the joyful boat
his parents, inventors also,
once dreamed up. After his mother’s death,
Afterglow became his father’s password
for everything. The children warned him, You need
different codes, you have to keep changing them,
but he chose to remember that one word,
he carried it with him down the years,
and he died without anyone stealing
the secret name.
Who can hold onto paradise? From the beginning
we’ve messed things up, made what is good difficult.
And needed to reinvent joy. Again and again.
So the celestial hang glider needs to be imagined,
and the magic swing set
that lets two people leap from the highest arc
and linger in the air for a beatific moment.
And the bed of quiet, the bed of gentle touching,
the bed where even the next kiss would be too much.
Dream machines that bring us together
and make possible all those deeds of kindness
we perform in the afterglow.
Ted Deppe is the author of five books of poems. A sixth book, Liminal Blue, will be published in Ireland in 2016 by Arlen House. A recipient of two grants from the NEA and a Pushcart Prize, Ted has taught creative writing in graduate programs in the U.S., Ireland, and England.
He is on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA program and directs Stonecoast in Ireland. He and his wife, poet Annie Deppe, are dual U.S. and Irish citizens and since 2000 have lived for the most part on the west coast of Ireland.