Jo Bell 24 June 2006

Da Vinci would have done it if he could.
No more wood burnt; solar panels; water turbines;
wind-turned blades on high Welsh hills.
No more atoms bursting into tiny flames.

I run my lights on joy. I’ve harnessed happiness.
It came to me at midnight on Millennium Eve –
the Tyne Bridge suddenly a fiery waterfall:
37,000 Geordie voices drowning Big Ben with the Blaydon Races –

it seemed such a waste to let such power leach away.
On New Year’s Day I sat down with a pen and pad,
a calculator and a bowl of Christmas pudding.
I began to sketch my happiness transformer.

I built it in the airing cupboard. Waited days,
the happiness accumulator gathering my thoughts.
On Friday, fly-wheels started almost imperceptibly
to move; my joy at this provoked a little cog to jiggle.

I started with the small appliances. The kettle boiled
just on the strength of pleasure as a guest arrived for tea.
The toaster ran on unexpected postcards:
the blender on snowfall, and the smell of fresh bread.

The prototype was prone to glitches. Without a regulator,
one good sip of wine could fuse the cooker.
The first morning of Spring, everything blew up
as soon as I drew the curtains.

When one dark night I kissed a man I shouldn’t kiss,
the lights boomed on like searchlights, like a runway strip
but offal-red, and all the doors blew off.
Clearly, this presented difficulties.

I took a tiny spanner to the gears, corrected ratios
and linkages, and tried again. When summer came
I realised the joy of June could see me through to January.
I fitted twelve deep cycle batteries.

The trickle charger gets me through the winter,
radiators giving out their heat from background joys.
Sunlight through dust; my father; W H Auden;
Paris; hawthorn trees; soup and beaches; Mr Benn.

On cold mornings, when the starter motor needs a blast
I lie back summoning up my men; a first sure touch,
a dirty murmur. All the darker joys.
If that fails, I play Aretha Franklin.

Related information

© Jo Bell 2006. This is one of the pieces of poetry performed at the Cheltenham Science Festival's annual 'Slam The Atom' competition on 16 June. It wasn't the winner, but it was the Editor's favorite!