Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

Time is perception. Perception is time. So Herr Broch has Virgil stating it, the poet gently lecturing Caesar on a few fine points of philosophy. That he is, more or less, on his deathbed, perhaps concentrates his thinking and frees up his tongue vis-à-vis the world’s most powerful actor. What has he to lose at this stage in the game? —Stronger than time was fate, in which the final secret of time lay hidden. For fate’s commandment to die was binding even on creation, even on the gods, yet constantly held in balance by its charge to be reborn, this charge on both gods and men, not to allow the web of perception to be rent, constantly to reknot the thread, to preserve in such wise and forever, knowing and known, the creative work of the gods and the gods themselves; gods and men bound to each other by the pledge of truth—Matters of signification aside, there are, no doubt, persons enough who find this sort of language offensive on account of mere mention of the gods, but there it is – it is there in Broch’s The Death of Virgil: an  optimism of sorts. In any case: Nikas. Sunday brunch hour. The Albanian waitress with startling eyes is very much with child, and in between her forays to her tables, she sits and has breathers, and holds herself just so. Erect. Shoulders back. Perhaps for her just now there is something else to time besides notions of perception. Last night, a Scots-born poet right in our very midst read a few of his poems at the Argo bookshop, J. P. presiding with some aplomb; and the poet somewhat advanced in age but not yet in his dotage, by way of genuine sentiments, and without much reference to time certainly made of time quite a palpable presence in the room. A young woman read, too. I could not make out a great deal of what she read but, nonetheless, a rather unfortunate image popped into mind as she took her verse through its paces. Picture, if you will, a beach. Everywhere on it modernism’s shipwreck. Detritus, detritus, the tide bringing in still more. Someone, a poet-in-the-making perhaps, picks up this bit, examines that bauble for its sparkliness, and, in the end, voilà! and we have lift-off and publication, and it is all quite clever as to how it works. Or am I waxing cynical? Labrosse, from his new redoubt in Carignan sent me a newspaper clipping to do with the recent passing of Raymond Souster, and, well, what did I think of the man? But I never knew the man, so I am unable to say what I think of him, just that I read a fair number of his verses back in the glory days and thought them honest enough; and perhaps that is the best anyone can say for anyone. —for even in its furthest reflection the deed of loving service had the power to establish reality—And so it was believed, once upon a time. And again, from The Death of Virgil. Labrosse also treated me to his views on certain mayors of the immediate vicinity and et cetera, and despite the fact of their ties to bad actors, their resignations and/or dismissals, he figures they will live to see the day that their meemwars enhance each their personal cash flow. The aforementioned book by Hermann Broch is an example of one that is important just by virtue of the fact it got written, whatever the book’s merits. Even so, the deeper I get into a deeply Teutonic book, I do find myself too frequently adrift, wading through passages I am afraid to skip by lest I miss a link in a chain of thought. I might here state for the record that, when it comes to important books, and there have been plenty of them, and I have read lots of that plenty, the topmost for me is the historian Ronald Syme’s two-volume study of the Roman historian Tacitus (entitled Tacitus) and his use of Latin and his observations on the nature of power. Second most: Moby Dick, I suppose. And then the canon and its predictable enough constituents—Oh, and someone named McGrath, in his poem The Port Inventory, title poem of his Cormorant Press book, 2012, has written one of the grander poems about Montreal. I am assuming the setting is Montreal, on the strength of the poem’s reference to an eatery on Ste Catherine’s. Awakened at an ungodly hour in the course of the night and unable to return to sleep, I switched on the TV and viewed the latest outbreak of hostilities in Gaza and found myself eventually nodding off. Pretty perverse, say what? Where have we got ourselves? Who knew that madness could prove such a terrific soporific?