With Blood So Dark

for James Joyce

Searching for words that
thundered in the coal shuttle
of the night and finding only
a slow drizzle filling his mind,
he left the dogs behind,
the dogs and the bookstalls
and the whores with
all their frippery, too.

Up from the slant crater
of a drunken Dublin dawn
he struck off across the plain
headed for a world unspoken,
while land crabs scuttled and
muggers laid their bats against
the wily skulls of lexicographers.

He passed many a nubile lot
on the downtrodden road,
babes in the woods they were,
all wound up and panting
for the strung cock's crow,
awaiting a city with paper
towers slicing the clouds.

He couldn't buy words here,
yet found plenty for the taking,
and always the slink and strut
of coiled sensuality, unsprung,
winding its knobby way through
legs and legends and slumber.

Even when he spelled it for miles
he could find no clean words,
only those shrouded with history,
up from the bog and down from
the dung heap, trailing threads,
string, fluff, second-hand words,
overused, underdone, parboiled
thin words wearing overcoats
and mufflers, drinking potions,
sailing to France, doing it again,
one more time and again words.

Searching for some tracery
of illumination to cast upon
the immanent blackness,
while the virgin boys fired
their rifles amid the forests,
hiding this way and that
until their bodies were
buried deep in the harsh
harness of the burnt soil.

When the wordmonger
screams there is no way
to mend the mind's wet slit.
When the canon of dreams
expels its complexity onto
a stage of serious senses,
thunder words resound.

Across the riverrun from
swerve of shore sinuous
to breaking bend of bay,
his matted thoughts
filled the wounded sky
with blood so dark
it is almost red no more.

*Appears in my collection Artifacts (Independent Legions,2018)