Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

Morning. Nikas. Athens is a conversational gambit between me and Alexandra the waitress. Relations with us two have been fairly civilized, of late, perhaps because I put questions to her about the country of her birth. “The Kurds,” she says, “the Turks keep pushing them on us.” And we are off to the races. And I have no idea what any of it means, or whether she means to say it is the Kurds who are shooting up in plain sight in certain parts of the city, or if she disdains immigrants there, she being an immigrant here; or if—Either all problems that arise in the human sphere are inherently solvable, or life itself is not a solution so much as it is a perpetual proposition and a dare. Some day, the sun will fatally consume itself and render the shooting match moot, but in the meantime – you know, there will be wretchedness. I have brought along a bottle of homemade olive oil MH carried back from her recent jaunt to Greece, the taste of which she finds suspect. No, no, no, you don’t understand. Or so Alexandra would have me understand, to judge by the look on her face. And though she has only to smell it to know, still she pours a bit of it on a plate, scoops up some of the oil with the tip of her finger and licks, and – excellent, she pronounces. Under no circumstances is this oil to be wasted on cooking. “Only for eating,” she declares, “pour it on your food.” It does pack quite an aftertaste, this oil, tending to bitter. Still, it has a taste. In any case, I am happy to see the matter put to rest, Alexandra pleased to have set me straight on something. There is the fact of ‘post-election’ and whether anything, anything at all, other than who has got the brass ring in their still-hot clutches, has been sorted out, set straight, resolved. From what I can gather from a few sources, (and in some instances consensus is such a weasel word) a consensus has already emerged which would have it that, even if a bullet was dodged in the person of the Republican contender, the status quo was given new lustre; the political reality down there that of a duopoly, which it is not necessarily a new board game but a monopolizing two-party system, the one party differing from the other only by the length of shadow it leaves on a front lawn; and that it remains to be seen whether Current President will endeavour to act on a principle or two, within certain constraints of pragmatism, or whether it has been kabuki theatre all along. Depending on your point of view, the people did manage to commit an act of ballot-casting, or they were simply permitted to vent a little steam, to exhibit a little leg or howl somewhat at the moon. P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator down there, thinks me less than worthy as I have doubts as to whether there are any come-back innings left to the republic, he believing the President is precisely the right man for the right moment and will do right by the good. Hamstrung, I suppose, by my doubts, I continue reading Herr Broch’s The Death of Virgil. Its prose continues problematic. Perhaps the book suggests what it would be like to be continually in the presence of the relentlessly divine. Then again, the prose here and there gets sludge-like and my eyes glass over—Even so, despite the lack of evidence for it, I will say there is a divine stage on which some portion of all we do or do not do in life is reflected; is somehow played back into the mix that is all the play of all human interactions. And five will get you ten you are thinking: now that’s a pretty cheesy thing to declareOne human life does not suffice. It suffices for nothing. Oh memory, oh homecoming—And in the most unknown, the most invisible, in the most unutterable, in remotest divinity, there ruled one whose shadow was light, always sensed, never known, the most unnamable, the utterly hidden. Was it not he whom the peasants shudderingly honoured, believing that he dwelt in the primal woods of the Capitoline? No statue was erected to him, none could be erected, symbol of himself was he, although he had announced himself in the symbol of the voice. Oh, open your eyes to love! And high above the breath of the noonday song which kept flooding in, warm and full of the anxious love of men for the earth, full of the fearful love of earth for men, the star of night took its wandering course, it also a symbol, a symbol of the unnamable love that longed to descend, in order to lift the earthbound into likeness with the sun—from Broch’s The Death of Virgil. Yes, and what won’t a poet get up to? Well, Mr Hedges over at Truthdig in his Death of the Liberal Class goes me a hundred talking-points better, and says it is finished, period. The election only demonstrates to what extent the politics of vanity (narcissism) hold sway as liberals keep pretending they are exerting quality control on the political product, and radicals of all stripes prepare to get more radical. He cites the Weimar Republic, Yugoslavia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Camden, New Jersey as past examples of a failure he says we are perpetrating all over again, Mr Carpenter dismissing him to me as an ‘absolutist’—But do not fascists love a rotten liberal, that such a stinker is their greatest club with which to club the peons? Then again, in the eye of the camera Mr Hedges strikes me as a rather cold man, his contempt for whom he deems the sell-outs as palpable as a football stadium suddenly gone silent due to some irruption of reality – as when, on the field, a neck has been broken, paramedics scurrying about—