This page continues Bloom’s attempts to figure out the best way to explain metempsychosis to Molly. The image of the cream swirling in the tea resonates beautifully with his thinking through the concept. This is a wonderful example of what the comic can do for Ulysses; a reader might not see the narrator’s description of the cream spirals as part of Bloom’s working through, but placing that image in the context of the concept shows how they all work together. Incidentally, it might be good to point out here too that the narrator has retreated a bit: in these conversations, Bloom has presence and gets to experience his moment with his wife unmediated.
I also think that upper left hand corner panel is a little meta-moment: Molly saying there’s nothing smutty in Ruby: The Pride of the Ring, and then asking if she is “in love with the first fellow all the time” sounds an awful lot like playing a bit with Ulysses–a book famous for smut which is really just about the wife being in love with the first fellow the whole time (I think, anyway. I guess you can keep reading and decide whether you agree).
Oh, and yes, Paul de Kock was the real name of a real writer. Here he is (if you were expecting someone a little like Dirk Diggler, I’m sorry to disappoint). He did not write Ruby. A Novel. Founded on the Life of a Circus Girl, but Joyce did own his books (which were actually a little more staid).