James Joyce and Janis Joplin


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.