Jun. 16, 2012
From my window, one hand on the phone, I strain
to hear the argument playing out below in a parked car,
a loud fight punctuated by slammed doors, a revved engine,
the man pounding the dashboard, yelling, "I didn't do anything!"
while the woman shouts back, over and over, "Just shut up!"
A giggling troupe of girls emerges from the pool hall
that serves anyone. They toss a pack of cigarettes back and forth,
stray out of the dark alley toward the lights of Main Street,
while hurrying the other way, a lawyer who's been working late,
briefcase bulging around mounds of paperwork,
heads now for her car, the last one left in all-day parking.
A collection of elderly restaurant-goers strolls purposefully
down the sidewalk, well-dressed, inaudible, unflinching
as they pass the arguers' car. I should be asleep.
It must be after eleven; the movie marquee's lights
have just shut off. Something large crashes out back
behind the building. My bed is empty.
When I lean out at just the right angle, I can see the ocean
scarred by moonlight, the glowing zero of the moon's face
poised above the window, looking in.
Today is Bloomsday, and James Joyce (books by this author) fans all over the world are celebrating. It commemorates the day on which the events of his novel Ulysses take place. Joyce chose June 16th, 1904, for the setting because it was the day of his first date with Nora Barnacle, his future wife. They'd met each other randomly on Nassau Street in Dublin on June 10th, chatted a bit, and agreed to meet up later. But she stood him up on their first would-be date of June 14th. On the 15th, the 22-year-old James Joyce sent a note to her that read:
"I may be blind. I looked for a long time at a head of reddish-brown hair and decided it was not yours. I went home quite dejected. I would like to make an appointment but it might not suit you. I hope you will be kind enough to make one with me — if you have not forgotten me!"
They successfully met up the following day, June 16th. They went for an evening stroll around the south bank of the Liffey River in Dublin. And Joyce later chose this day for the setting of Ulysses.
Even after the novel's success, Joyce himself did not call June 16th "Bloomsday." Nor did he really celebrate the day, though publisher Sylvia Beach organized a celebratory Parisian luncheon on June 16th, 1929 — years before the book was legal in the English-speaking world.
The first modern celebration of Bloomsday was in 1954, the 50th anniversary of the fictional events in Joyce's book, and about three decades after Joyce published his novel in 1922. Irish writers Flann O'Brien and Patrick Kavanagh got together with critic John Ryan and a dentist cousin of James Joyce, named Tom Joyce, to make a daylong pilgrimage around Dublin. They were to have stops at the Martello Tower (the opening scene of the novel), Davy Byrne's Pub (where Bloom eats a gorgonzola cheese sandwich) and 7 Eccles Street (where Bloom and his wife, Molly, lived). They role-played, acted out the dialogue, and rode in horse-drawn carriages like those described in the scene of Paddy Dignam's funeral. They were supposed to end up in the red-light section of Dublin, where the 15th chapter of Ulysses "Nighttown" is set, but the literary pilgrims got a bit drunk and distracted at a pub about halfway through the route and lost their ambition to finish it.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®