haircut and a shave Ulysses chapter one erasure poem

Stately, stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him on the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called out coarsely:
Come up!mounted the round gunrest. rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak. sternly.body and soul and blood. Slow music, please. Shut your eyes, gents. One moment. A little trouble about those white corpuscles. Silence, all.
whistle of call, then paused awhile in rapt attention, his even white teeth glistening here and there with gold points. Chrysostomos. calm. Switch off the current, will you?
He skipped off. A pleasant smile broke quietly over his lips.
—The mockery of it! his finger laughing to himself. Tripping and sunny Will you come if
—Yes, my love?
showed a shaven cheek over his right shoulder.
these bloody English! Bursting with money and indigestion. Because he comes from Oxford. You know,
—lunatic! Were you in a funk?
—I was, Scutter! he cried thickly.
He came over to the gunrest and, thrusting a hand into Stephen’s upper pocket, said:
—Lend us a loan of your noserag to wipe my razor.
Stephen suffered him to pull out and hold up on show by its corner a dirty crumpled handkerchief. Then, gazing over the handkerchief, he said:
—The bard’s noserag! A new art colour for our Irish poets: snotgreen. You can almost taste it, can’t you?
He mounted to the parapet again and gazed out over Dublin bay, his fair oakpale hair stirring slightly.
Our mighty mother!
He turned abruptly his grey searching eyes from the sea to Stephen’s face.
—The aunt thinks you killed your mother, he said. That’s why she won’t let me have anything to do with you.
—Someone killed her, Stephen said gloomily.
—You could have something sinister in you…
He broke off and lathered again lightly his farther cheek. A tolerant smile curled his lips.
—But a lovely mummer! he murmured to himself.
He shaved evenly and with care, in silence, seriously.
Elbow rested on the jagged granite, leaned his palm against his brow and gazed at the fraying edge of his shiny black coat-sleeve. Pain, that was not yet the pain of love, fretted his heart. Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body within its loose brown graveclothes giving off an odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that had bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. Across the threadbare cuffedge he saw the sea hailed as a great sweet mother by the wellfed voice beside him. The ring of bay and skyline held a dull green mass of liquid. A bowl of white china had stood beside her deathbed holding the green sluggish bile which she had torn up from her rotting liver by fits of loud groaning vomiting.
Etiquette is etiquette. He kills his mother but he can’t wear grey trousers.
He folded his razor neatly and with stroking palps of fingers felt the smooth skin.
Stephen turned his gaze from the sea and to the plump face with its smokeblue mobile eyes.
He swept the mirror a half circle in the air to flash the tidings abroad in sunlight now radiant on the sea. His curling shaven lips laughed and the edges of his white glittering teeth. Laughter seized all his strong wellknit trunk.
—Look at yourself, he said, you dreadful bard!
Stephen bent forward and peered at the mirror held out to him, cleft by a crooked crack. Hair on end. As he and others see me. Who chose this face for me? This dogsbody to rid of vermin. It asks me too.
—I pinched it out of the skivvy’s room, said. It does her all right. The aunt always keeps plainlooking servants for Malachi. Lead him not into temptation. And her name is Ursula.
Laughing again, he brought the mirror away from Stephen’s peering eyes.
—The rage of Caliban at not seeing his face in a mirror, he said. If Wilde were only alive to see you!
Drawing back and pointing, Stephen said with bitterness:
—It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked looking-glass of a servant.
suddenly linked his arm in Stephen’s and walked with him round the tower, his razor and mirror clacking in the pocket where he had thrust them.
God knows you have more spirit than any of them.
Parried again. He fears the lancet of my art as I fear that of his. The cold steelpen.
—Cracked lookingglass of a servant! Tell that to the oxy chap downstairs and touch him for a guinea. He’s stinking with money and thinks you’re not a gentleman. His old fellow made his tin by selling jalap to Zulus or some bloody swindle or other.
—And to think of your having to beg from these swine. I’m the only one that knows what you are. Why don’t you trust me more? What have you up your nose against me? Is it Haines? If he makes any noise here I’ll bring down Seymour and we’ll give him a ragging worse than they gave Clive.
Young shouts of moneyed voices in Clive’s rooms. Palefaces: they hold their ribs with laughter, one clasping another. O, I shall expire! Break the news to her gently, Aubrey! I shall die! With slit ribbons of his shirt whipping the air he hops and hobbles round the table, with trousers down at heels, chased by Magdalen with the tailor’s shears. A scared calf’s face gilded with marmalade. I don’t want to be debagged! Don’t you play the giddy ox with me!
Shouts from the open window startling evening in the quadrangle. A deaf gardener, aproned, masked with Arnold’s face, pushes his mower on the sombre lawn watching narrowly the dancing motes of grasshalms.
To ourselves… new paganism… omphalos.
—Let him stay, Stephen said. There’s nothing wrong with him except at night.
—Then what is it? asked impatiently. Cough it up. I’m quite frank with you. What have you against me now?
They halted, looking towards the blunt cape of Bray Head that lay on the water like the snout of a sleeping whale. Stephen freed his arm quietly.
—Do you wish me to tell you? he asked.
—Yes, what is it? I don’t remember anything.
He looked in Stephen’s face as he spoke. A light wind passed his brow, fanning softly his fair uncombed hair and stirring silver points of anxiety in his eyes.
Stephen, depressed by his own voice, said:
—Do you remember the first day I went to your house after my mother’s death?
frowned quickly and said:
—What? Where? I can’t remember anything. I remember only ideas and sensations. Why? What happened in the name of God?
—You were making tea, Stephen said, and went across the landing to get more hot water. Your mother and some visitor came out of the drawingroom. She asked you who was in your room.
—Yes?What did I say? I forget.
—You said, Stephen answered, is beastly dead.
A flush which made him seem younger and more engaging rose to asked. Well? What harm is that?He shook his constraint from him nervously.
—And what is death, he asked, your mother’s or yours or my own? You saw only your mother die. I see them pop off every day in the Mater and Richmond and cut up into tripes in the dissectingroom. It’s a beastly thing and nothing else. It simply doesn’t matter. You wouldn’t kneel down to pray for your mother on her deathbed when she asked you. Why? Because you have the cursed jesuit strain in you, only it’s injected the wrong way. To me it’s all a mockery and beastly. Her cerebral lobes are not functioning. She calls the doctor sir Peter Teazle and picks buttercups off the quilt. Humour her till it’s over. You crossed her last wish in death and yet you sulk with me because I don’t whinge like some hired mute from Lalouette’s. Absurd! I suppose I did say it. I didn’t mean to offend the memory of your mother.
He had spoken himself into boldness. Stephen, shielding the gaping wounds which the words had left in his heart, said very coldly:—I am not thinking of the offence to my mother.—Of what then?

Advertisements

About m.a. wood

writer, thinker, musician, teacher
This entry was posted in erasure poem, poem. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s