Cleanup on Aisle Ulysses


James Joyce

COMES NOW PAUL, PAUL, a handsome lad with eccentric hair, a small triangle of it pointed down upon his brow, making him appear sometimes demonic, sometimes more demonic, who said you cannot make this stuff up and he is correct because no one on the seven continents, including Antarctica with its daft but pretty penguins, Antarctica, a land cursed and blessed with cold—and the cold is the curse; but it is such cold that it keeps the humans away, and the cold is the blessing—no one would have spun the tale of an unhinged tycoon who has touched the deep inner spirit or lack thereof of the people and they have thus anointed and appointed him the sage of the realm and now ask him to lead them into the future or the past—depending on their point of view and interpretation and level of nostalgia for an idyllic era that never existed—and, our unhinged one, all fecund in his nuttiness, despite of or because of that, he has been named the presumptive and presumptuous candidate for the party of elephantine capitalists, to battle against the also-presumptive and presumptuous candidate for the party of equus asinus capitalists, in

a bid to occupy an office oval—office oval, not orifice oval, in its slippery wetness—and bring again greatness upon this great land which he believes was great but is not now great but that he came make great again even amid the enmity of his former rivals for the position of alpha male in the herd of elphantines and even his former friends among those and the equus asinus and Nora please bring me some hair of the dog for my head throbs as it always does the day after Bloomsday and most other days, too, Nora my stunning wench I will soon have at you with the fury that only I know how to bestow upon you but my dearest lovebird wear for me your frilly undergarments that are now made in China, the land which our elephantine alpha believes must be dominated and thrashed and humiliated and made to beg for our mercy although it holds the notes on our debt and may any day threaten to call them in and when we cannot pay, which we cannot, the land of the Chairman could use the mighty ships of its maritime war machine to come collect and evict us from our modest yet beloved home yet with you by my side Nora I know no fear for I hear the sound of your farts blowing bubbles in the bathtub and that sound fills me with courage, the courage of someone unafraid to confront the truth, which is that this land that Steve, Steve left as a young man but did return to the city of Los Angeles while Stephen, Stephen did not go back to Dublin, left and never saw it again or let it see him, only re-created it in words, words too many to count, words and millions of them, and that in this land there is a document and it is a beloved document so beloved yet misunderstood, it is worshipped as if it were a religion, more than a Bible, more than the very words of God, creator of the universe, it is written on a parchment and the people who worship it the most have not read it and do not even know what it says, Nora thank you for the potable but now please leave me with my elephantines and equus asinus for these few moments, otherwise I’m afraid my Eve of all earthly delights that began in Eden, you will drive me insane with desires unspoken because unspeakable, but now I remember Tom, Tom, a man of the pub, both as Irish as a pint of Guinness draft and as American as a single slice of Kraft, turned to me once and asked the meaning of this amendment that prevents soldiers from living in our homes, and although he was Tom, Tom, a man of the pub and also of high learning and higher intellect, did not know that America’s colonists were forced to feed and lodge the soldiers of His Majesty’s empire, so the fathers of founding legend put in writing in amendment the third that ye shall no longer be forced to quarter soldiers (while not allowed to halve them, as they are halved today between the two rivers—oh the irony, in the cradle of civilization our soldiers are not quartered but halved!) and if Tom, Tom did not know this amendment then it is a good bet that 99 percent of the population of the United States, where education is compulsory if not excellent, does not also know this amendment, never mind the rest of the amendments and the Constitution, which brings us to the matter at hand as my head pulses like the pulse of a pugilist in the last round of a match so long that no one remembers when it started, which was at the beginning, and from the beginning until now no one seems to think anything wrong with the idea that a minority of the congress was able to prevent a vote on a bargain, a bargain so grand it had been awaited for a generation, anticipated especially by the elephantines, to finally limit spending by the government, because the elephantines are traditionally thrifty when spending but non-functional in revenue, while the equus asinus (or simplicidus if you prefer) are traditionally generous in spending and much much more enthusiastic about revenue, but when it came time some rabid elephantines would not allow even a vote on the bargain, thus through entirely constitutional means the minority was allowed to thwart a monumental monetary reform, and now on this very day the elephantines are also preventing the appointment of a judge to the court supreme through entirely constitutional means, and while the citizenry is in uproar over who can and should, upon the need to excrete or urinate, use the toilet with the male silhouette emblazoned upon it and who can and should use the toilet with the woman’s silhouette emblazoned upon it, the republic, which was long believed to be the apex, the ne plus ultra, of democracy and civilization, is dissolving into a chaos, a chaos of such proportion that the elephantine presumptive is demanding of our Paul, Paul with the eccentric demonic hair and John, John, who comes from a place that is round on both ends and high in the middle and said that the joke has stopped its funniness, that they shut their bloody gobs once and for all, so perhaps it is time to do as the French do, and that is to look upon their Constitution and bring out a pencil red and make some changes in this document, which is perhaps just words on paper however much they are revered, they are still but words on paper and

What’s high in the middle and round at both sides?

can be red-penciled by anyone at anytime, as those eaters of snails and frogs did after one of their constitutions allowed the lower house to investigate the upper house, so each month a new investigation was launched and the avaricious bastards could turn the reputations of the senators into a gelatinous goo of putrid stinking vomit and then they would unseat them amid scandal and excoriation and take their jobs and the higher pay and then the infernal cycle of corruption and greed would being again until our Parisian friends and enemies looked at their document and said that perhaps it would be better that we wiped our arses with this thing than continue using it to govern us, and upon that realization they tore up the old useless parchment and started fresh, and once again later after two wars they decided while imbibing numerous Cognacs and the delicious apple brandies of Normandy, the delicious apple brandies called Calvados, that it was that time again, and one said, perhaps something as “my friends we thought the last one was bad but this one, though, this one is the real piece of fecal matter” although exclaiming it in his native language, which would sound like mes amis on avait pensee que le vieux document etait mauvais, mais celui-ci, alors, celui-ci est le vrai tas de merde, and why is it these people, who have Champagne and Cognac, and the Ile aux Cygnes, or in Irish the Isle of the Swans, where Stephen, Stephen used to walk with his young acolyte Sam, Sam and then a generation later Steve, Steve used to walk on the Isle of Swans down the middle of the murky river Seine, imagining he was following in their footsteps, remembering that it was in those days that Sam, that Sam realized that I had written everything there was to know about knowing so he would instead try to write everything there was to know about not knowing, these French people, they not only have Cognac and Champagne but also have the wisdom to start fresh when a fresh start is required, but we cannot muster this wisdom, we are as limp as dead shrimps when it is time to act upon reform of the republic, whether elephantine reform or equus asinus reform, Nora, I ask you, but then I say, do not answer my sweetness, owner of my orifice of damp delight, for I know the answer, and this is how I know, it is because I know, I know, come to me Nora, ride me as you have never ridden and when your cataclysmic climax is upon you I will squeeze your fabulistic fantasmical buttocks and scream HISTORY IS A NIGHTMARE FROM WHICH I AM TRYING TO AWAKE and you will scream THE CONSTITUTION IS BROKEN, FIX IT and the people will hear us at last because we have exploded like twin stars going supernovae simultaneously in a burst of superexcellence and they will say finally yes yes we will yes we will we will say yes.

— James Joyce is the author of several books, including A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and a play, Exiles. This column was solicited by Steve Silkin, Conquistador’s channeler in chief. Thank you James. Your spirit may leave my body and return into the ether now.


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