verse by other means



Michael Harris


James Joyce

Ah Jim, you addlepated
well-hung stud: how thin the wire
you wobbled along, under the public spotlight,
as if warding off God’s vicious sun shining
above the burst roses of Nora’s delicate parasol
and your pirate’s black eyepatch and bottlebottomed specs.

But O what a clear voice—pure tenor
moving as among cathedral beams in a honey of stained glass,
singing in a mist of joy at a rainbow in a lane-way in Trieste
or melancholy by the murky Seine while boatmen plied
souls for a sou or two to the Ile de France for snapshots;

sang out always, didn’t you, as well under the prefect’s canes
as when you came in Nora’s mouth, or evenings at the Wine Bar
down from Sylvia Beach’s place—and at God, no doubt,
when He collected you from your troubles and took you up
as soon as the river stopped running…

Inkstained wretch, singing the angels down to earth
and the trolls up and out from under the cells of their bridges:
Sublime vulgarian, Saint of the Segué, Archbishop of Etymology,
Priest of Parable, Jimmy of the Slouch Hat, of the dimly seen
Map of the Wire with never a net to break your fall—

and now reclining in the Cabinet of Curiosities,
moved into the dens of the collectors
on the Franklin Library leatherbound Limited Edition shelf,
all edges gilt, cover dentelled and richly embossed
with five raised bands on a spine with a crown
and a foot far sturdier than ever were yours.


-—from Circus, Signal Editions, 2010, an imprint
of Véhicule Press