Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Poem "James Joyce's Death-mask" by Brendan Kennelly

James Joyce's Death-mask by Brendan Kennelly
He, in this death-mask, warms the vision like a joy,
For whom the cold of exile was the only place
Where home was art's acropolis; now, passions stem
From fretted skin, the hollow landscape of his face.
Eyeing this mask, I see him bending to life's work,
Some prodigal son who scorned, from love, to claim
A fatted calf, but irrevocably estranged,
Strode lonely down the bright meridians of fame.
Inert, the poem-troubled skin squats round the eyes,
Limp hair, white spike of light that strikes the fervent lips
Which opened once to utter sung whisperings; now,
Harsh yearnings hurt wilfully and cold wind rips.
Away, outside, he sees from his total prison,
The bone-bright life of things that grows remote and dim,
A ring of Being, glinting like sunlit water,
Spurting through stoney clouds, outside, away from him.
And yet those eyes knew life's repeated thunder once.
Tumult of images, city roaring and blind.
Leaped wild through his head with a hard, choking wonder.
Stumbling to expression in dark streets of his mind.
His life-work finished and Ireland still blown by the
Wet winds of fear, his death-face has its own life yet;
Some simple no music, birdsong, nor branches
Breaking with full flowers can equal, or we forget.

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