These two poems are from
Joyce’s rattlechap, A Sense of
This is not a distance to be traveled under water, holding your long,
strong breath; this is not a sleep, though you be its dream—this is what
you must travel to come out of yourself.
This is not a distance to be traveled through the air, without falling;
you must support your own buoyancy, spread out your articulate life-wing
and connect your vision.
This is not a stillness you must hold while all shatters about you—you
are the center of it all—the dot of perfection that is the focal point
of destruction, untouchable by force and resistance.
You are all of it. All. Hold your position.
(after Threading Light, Mark Tobey, 1942)
I, being abstract of expression, come to you with riddles—complicate the
darkness with the light— talk of a distance year and place—run my
over language and beg you listen to the hum and flow of words that skim
the surface—like gull from sea to land then back to sky, but all in
white. I ask you
for detail, to close your eyes and see, describe, define, reclaim from
blank space all that you remember of nothing. Out of my vagueness I
plagiarize the light,
threading it… threading it… threading it… while you watch—while I create
patterns of thought and silence between us—the way you do when you look
These two poems are from Caught Against the Years,
a collection of Joyce’s poetry which was illustrated by her daughter,
TRACING THE HISTORY
It is a long time into the eloquence of stones. Ravens carry their own
death under their black wings.
Along the invisibility, the old forms begin to assemble.
The vain reflections claim they cannot live without mirrors.
Once, in the snow, the snow-ghost led us, followed us, teased us; we
played back for a while, then got lost within the white.
All night, the storyteller sat mute under a spotlight of intensity, then
got up, bowed, and walked off-stage—and was applauded.
3:45 says the clock. I praise this significance of numbers, write it
down to remember. 3:46 says the clock.
TIME CAN BE MEASURED
you have already inherited
you have already been kissed
by its loving eyes
and signed your self
so what is fame
and worth, at best, one
drop of rain
time can be measured
in instant or eternity
they are the same