On Reading James Joyce

by Tom Radcliffe


Slippery silken rhythms slide
down darkened passageways that hide
long buried hurts and ancient scars
and weapons strewn on Field of Mars
from battles fought and won and lost
where magic bled to pay the cost.

Slippery silken rhythms wake
the Kraken reaching out to take
the shoals of memory in its arms
and twist the mind: send out alarms!
Bear up against the pressure now,
in slides the painful lance "moocow".

Slippery silken rhythms glide
past censors, shutters, down they ride
to touch the darkest depths of soul,
distract, disturb, unpack, unroll
the core of man, the core of child:
the human, and beneath, the wild.


We used to think that healing meant: keep still
and wrapped a broken leg in plaster cast,
then atrophy of muscle brought new ills:
flaccid my thigh, and stiffened knee held fast
by sinews frozen in ungentle cage,
helplessly chained, beyond my power to bend
until through spasm's unexpected rage
the crackling knee is flexed beyond the end.
Sharp pain it brings, first healing fire's burn,
to limb unused long quiet winter's night;
child's cries ring out, to feel the life return,
freedom bringing unexpected plight.
For joy brings pain where stillness long held sway
first steps are forced along the joyful way.