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A Lilt Of Irish Verse: The Poems Of Annie And Ted Deppe

Having lived in Connecticut for many years, Ted and Annie Deppe moved to Ireland in 2000. While living there, Ted Deppe became the director of the Stonecoast in Ireland program in 2006. They currently live in Connemara and continue to coordinate Stonecoast residencies. Ted is the author of six poetry collections, including "Orpheus on the Red Line," from which his poems below were chosen. Annie's books include "Wren Cantata'' and "Sitting in the Sky." The Deppes return to Connecticut often and have read at various Connecticut venues, to the delight of their many friends and admirers.

– Rennie McQuilkin, CT poet laureate

The Bullig Path

By Annie Deppe

By Annie Deppe

Tired from packing, we walk to the cliffs

behind our house, not wanting to leave

this island home. I settle in the rock chair,

my favourite place to watch for whales,

while you and Cait hike the steep path

down to the sea arch. The blue of your shirt

and her red skirt grow smaller and smaller,

then vanish over the edge.

I adjust the binoculars — no whales,

just broken lines of gannets.

Off the Bullig, where Atlantic waters curl

and crash, the head of a seal surfaces;

then with a roll, its slick body slides from sight.

So strange how you can be in my view

one moment, then suddenly gone.

There are nights when I wake and study

your face. You're the age my father was

the first time he died. I don't know how, love,

I'd ever be ready to let you go.

Some say the Bullig Path was worn into the earth

by generations wanting one last glimpse

as loved ones sailed from the island.

You're climbing back up the hill again, and not

for the first time I'm struck by the way our daughter

looks like my mother. For a moment, is

my mother, young again, striding along

at your side. Suddenly, nothing seems fixed

in a world where sea caves tunnel

beneath my feet, and my dead mother walks

at my husband's side. It's the strangest thing,

you say, as you reach me. When I looked up

and saw you on the ridge,

you seemed to be sitting in the sky.

The Reader

So few cars come down this mountain road

that when one makes a sharp stop

in front of our house tonight, it's news.

We're at the window, afraid it's hit a sheep

or spun off the road down the steep bank.

Red tail-lights and the air fills with a mix

of motor and loud music. Dark buzz

as two tall boys with slurred voices

argue in the high beam. Above their heads

they raise flagstones from our wall,

then heave them, two-handed, over the edge.

You're pulling on your trousers,

filled with some male need to be out in the night

facing this hyped-up energy head-on.

As you move towards the door,

switching on lights, making your presence known,

they're back in their car and gone.

I wait in my nightgown as you search, twice,

the hillside with a flashlight. Wonder

what I would have done this far up the glen

had those boys turned their energies

towards our windows, or you. Next morning we find

hidden by high grass

the curled body of a badger:

eyes open, teeth bared, haloed by stones.

Did those boys kill for fun? Or, once the car hit it

did they stop to put it out of misery

in a drunken act of mercy?

I put on the water for coffee and begin

to make breakfast. You grab the newspaper,

start outside, then pause to read an article on Gustav Mahler

before you scoop up the badger in those pages

and try to walk death out of sight.

November, Renvyle

Lingering in bed

beneath the new blue quilt:

coffee and porridge

and grey sweeping waves.

Cloud shadows on Mweelrea

across the bay.

A warm proximity, shared view

but everything changing

in lag-time. Long seconds

before the ponies you commented on

will wander into my sight.

Then hay carried in a sack.

Legs touching, everything close

but angled so differently.

Boundaries of otherness.

The breaking-blue window of sky

travelling your way, inch by inch.

Recitative On Cape Clear Island

By Theodore Deppe

Cows in their rectangles of fog, and the repeated notes

of a song thrush from the next, invisible field—

repetition and variation: the calm manic music

of one who belongs here. My friend Chuck

leaves for hospital on the mainland,

and standing at his fieldstone wall, I wave him off.

How many years since he carved up the minke whale

with Nell's bread knife? Even after he boiled the knife

she made him buy her a new one. Now, his wall

is crowned with the whale's weathered vertebrae,

salt wind whistling faintly

through winged flutes, the small stops

of the spinal canal mouthing their only song,

O and O and O and O. . .

Returning home, I learn Octavio Paz has died.

At the giant outdoor stone table, I copy these lines of his:

"Pounding at the door of my soul

is the world with its bloodthirsty schedules."

Fog-gray kettle of tea,

sound of wind or waves or both

whittling this island down to essentials,

and the thrush that settles ten feet away, head thrown back, throat

relaxing and swelling—what would it be like

to give myself so thoroughly to a song?

I think of the teaching jobs I love

but also of Eamon saying, "Teaching is like

being nibbled to death by a hundred ducks."

When we met, I asked Chuck if he'd worried,

quitting his teaching career to move to this island.

"A man must be a little crazy

not to be a lot crazy." Annie and I, juggling

four jobs between us then, breathed

again, freed by his story of leaving everything.

Now we've returned to Cape, Annie's out walking,

the mist is clearing, a breakneck reel's

playing in the kitchen,

and what's just happened?—

I'm suddenly weeping

and can't quite say why.

Annie's back from the cliffs where she's heard her first

skylark, just where Chuck said he'd heard one

yesterday. I leave with her to see if it's still there,

recalling Chuck's words: "If you see the lark, don't

let it become a symbol in some damn poem of yours.

For Christ's sake let it be itself, that will be enough."

It's here, Chuck, above the Bullig, a bird that's breathtakingly

only itself. From its heather nest it rises

vertically hundreds of feet

to pelt the wind with song, hovers there,

then lifts itself higher and sings aloft the longest time,

a ravishing music that maybe means

nothing, intends

only itself, but opens up this landscape

into something even larger,

rock-spined island that hums in the wind

with the waves' percussion and the whalebones'

O-antiphons and the lowing cows,

a chorus, a canticle, a recitative

too large for us to understand which yet,

in the blessed now, includes us.

Giving Thanks

The abandoned railway

runs through gorse and bogland

as we walk from our house

to Caiseal na gCorr.

No tracks remain,

but the old ghost line's

still supported by stone bridges

that span the river

swollen with last night's rain.

At the ruined station

we set out our picnic

but find another feast's

already going on:

magpies glide in to land

on hawthorn trees

whose branches dip

then hold the weight.

Enough red berries

in these few trees

to feed a multitude

so our revelers

call out for others

to join them.

A disused train station

serving bogs and mountain lakes—

only a handful of homes

in the distance—but we're

at the heart

of something, for the moment

there's nothing but joy here.

An afternoon from the past

pulls in at the grassy platform:

laughing, I ask,

Twenty guesses, where am I?

Straight off, my wife says,

In that cherry tree in Italy.

Who cares that the tree

was really in Germany, I'm happy

she can read my mind

or knows me so well that a cherry tree

I once told her about

grows now in her mind, loaded

with over-ripened fruit and

a clamor of waxwings.

Three decades

since I shinnied up that tree,

a boy with his first beard

who picked handfuls

of plump fermenting cherries and

feasted on those brilliant

kirsch-flavored constellations.

Perched above an orchard

that sloped down in a rush of

red to the Bodensee

I suddenly wanted someone

to thank, so made a song

that tried to praise

everyone and everything

that brought me to that point.

Later, climbing down, I fell.

Strange to still care so much

about that blinding afternoon

when a lone traveler

lay in the warm, gently

spinning grass, an adolescent Li Po

in the Orchard of Plenty,

scribbling poems

I couldn't make out next day.

An insignificant moment of bliss,

but my wife remembered the story.

So now, as she raises our wine bottle

to the newest arrival

at Caiseal na gCorr—

the branch still waving

under the blue-black weight

of the glossy magpie—we toast

another meaningless moment

I'd like to recall forever.

Poems copyright © 2003 and 2009 by Annie and Theodore Deppe, selected from Orpheus on the Red Line and Sitting in the Sky. CT Poet Laureate Rennie McQuilkin selects works for CT Poets Corner by invitation.

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