James Joyce and Janis Joplin walk together
down Broadway. They aren't exactly arm-
in-arm, but together past the Dante café
and the post office, east past the Co-Ed theater
and the Red Rock Tavern to the square. You know the place.
They aren't ghosts, but bodies real as you.
Janis has all these arm bangles and you'd
think James would be eye-patched, but he has it together
enough today to be just myopic, heading to the place
where the peonies go unnoticed, turning up the arm
of the city to inject it with a dose of theater
perhaps. They aren't arguing yet, but headed straight
into Revelations. They take a seat at the window. The cafe's
sound system plays "Piece of My Heart" softly and you
can see Dubliners shelved behind James's head. On the theater
of the table, their hands dramatize together
the collapse of some great tower, a reference to the arms
of love, you suppose, and they order large cups in place
of lunch, huge doses of caffeine in place
of real nourishment. They have no time. The café
swarms and then drains in an hour and the clock's black arm
clicks and James's face sours when he sees you.
You taught them, once, to breathe, gave them access to the theater
of their brains, but now you have to get them back inside you.
The notebook in your arms you slap shut
with all your strength. Dust ghosts the room
like a magic theater; where they sat are now piles
of ash. You sweep the ashes into two separate envelopes,
gently, and pay the owner of the café for her trouble.