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Best of Irish Poetry 2009
Best of Irish Poetry 2010

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TED DEPPE

 

 

 

Ted Deppe

Ted Deppe is the author of four books of poems, most recently Cape Clear: New and Selected Poems (Salmon) and Orpheus on the Red Line (Tupelo). He lives in Connemara and directs writing residencies in Ireland for the Stonecoast MFA programme in Maine.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Art Critic and the Colour Yellow

 

 

She waits for the museum guard to turn away, readying herself to

touch the young woman

 

who is stepping into a tub, weight on the foot already in the bath

while her back leg tightens

 

to follow. Viewed from behind, the bather is present, seen fully,

alive in a way the aging art critic

 

fears she will never be again. Impossible man, Degas! Irascible

          as her department head

 

who ridiculed her latest book. And yet, once it was given to Degas

to draw well. 

 

That’s what he had inscribed on his gravestone: He liked

very much to draw

 

Now someone’s asked the guard a question, the critic closes her eyes

          and for a few seconds

 

she runs her spotted hand across the oils of a masterpiece

the way the elderly Degas

 

interrogated the paintings of Ingres. Too blind to work,

he’d daily made his way through Paris

 

to touch the work of his teacher. She imagines his fingers,

almost numb, searching

 

for the nub where paint quickens, the farewell and relearning

of all we aspire to—

 

The disciple said he felt the rising sweep of a color

he could no longer see but

 

knew must be Indian yellow—he felt its flame,

so the critic

 

tries now to feel the yellow Degas used. Tries,

but fails.

 

But how did she think it would feel? Degas, after touching

the master’s paintings,

 

said, What a horrible thing yellow is!—sulfurous blaze

that leads to the end of things,

 

to the heart of things, brief flare and snuff his fingers

gratefully suffered. Hell, she thinks,

 

then let me feel the horror of it, and without checking the guard,

returns her palm to the bather’s back,

 

closes her eyes once more, and feels instead herself young again—

slender, risen on a hot afternoon

 

in the south of France from the bed of her lover,

one foot entering cool water. 

 

©2013 Ted Deppe

 

 

Author Links

 

Theodore Deppe on Poetry Foundation webiste

Purchase Cape Clear from Salmon Poetry

Audio of poems by Deppe at Poetry Speaks

 

 

 

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