Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

Morning. Nikas. It is dull with rain out there. The light palls with some strain of an ‘end of the world’ feeling. Or so London Lunar characterized his morning on the other side of the pond. Further hyperbole followed. What he calls ‘Freudian c—ks—kers’ are artistic types who have made of Tannhäuser not an extravaganza on sacred and profane love and redemption through better living, but a holocaust soap, the opera’s tale set in a concentration camp, favoured locale of campy sorts where S&M and the Wizard of Oz and Breakfast at Tiffany’s circulate about in some oil-slicked Charybdisian pool of the psyche.  Being a Puccini man, I am probably to be located not only on the wrong side of history, but on the wrong side of art as well. I am vaguely aware that I was in attendance at McGravitas’s the other night; that I had gotten vociferous in the matter of a debate. Well, is the internet an excellent thing or not? Golden Girl looked darling, and because she also sided with my reasoning, her stock shot up in my estimation; and her stock was already plenty high. Juniper, on the other hand, was not having any of it; he just wasn’t; and when he said I had no business dissing that which I avail myself of on a daily basis, he had a point. On the other hand it was a point that was not likely to carry for longer than five minutes; and yet by the time the five minutes had elapsed I was on about the massive and crushing conformity I see everywhere around me, even in the deepest and dankest recesses of so-called alternative culture. Trouble is, that argument of mine had already seen its heyday back in the 50s, and the words ‘conformity’; and ‘non-conformity’ no longer obtain, let alone compute, and have not obtained and computed for eons. My goodness, where is a sociologist when you need one? Juniper, to his credit, did allow for the fact that his generation is in the hunt for the Holy Grail of unmediated experience such as my generation enjoyed in huge dollops once upon a time, not ever suspecting it had a shelf-life. Best before 1978 or thereabouts. We played outdoors; we had no computers, and the TV was not yet that big a deal. We were also pretty much left to our own devices, parental supervision fairly sparing. (Here I suppose the Moesian, who is a gentleman and a scholar, and who is also a serious fellow, would wish for me to press my point home and pile on a little when it comes to the emptiness and otherwise of our mass culture. And which emptiness might that be? That same emptiness of which the Beats sang, sitting around their campfires, roasting their condiments? You know, back in the aforementioned heyday of Jailhouse Rock and Milkcow Boogie? No sir. I would rather go on about Daryl Hine and his translation of Theocritus’ idylls: sex and song amidst those shepherds and townswomen, too; of people just trying to get by, taking what the defense gives you, as per the play-by-play boys of the sports world. Those idylls from which Virgil took his cue and not only showed some of the crud on the Roman boot, but indicated that there was a boot—I do not believe I have, at any time, been alienated so much as disinclined; disinclined to kowtow to the rhetoric by which people seem to think they have outwitted the blahs of existence, and all they have accomplished is a capitulation to bank ads. I smell a rant on the way, by the way—Citizen or stranger, this bank treats all alike. /Deposit and withdraw, the books will balance right. / Another may demur, but Caicus when you like / transacts funny business for you day or night— from Theocritus Idylls and Epigrams, translated from the Greek by Daryl Hine, with an Epilogue to Theocritus—Atheneum, 1982—You see, the ‘classical ideal’ to which Mr Hine may or may not have subscribed is not necessarily stuffy academe, and God knows the street can get pretty stuffy, too—)  I then asked the sister of McGravitas how her family had not only managed to produce three poets but was surviving them, from the looks of it? A grin took over her countenance. I was allowed sufficient time in which to fully realize I had just blundered into a hideous trap of my own making. “Oh,” she ventured to clue me, “the fishing industry shut down.” (Or had this little exchange occurred on some other occasion? Oh dear. Getting dotty.) Before what smattering of brain cells remains to me vacates the premises, there is a line to quote from Gabriel Levin’s The Dune’s Twisted Edge, The University of Chicago Press, 2013:  The poem is lonely. It is lonely and enroute. And there is this counterblast stemming from the wag Flann O’Brien. He produced some fairly cogent rationales for the banning of poetry altogether. That it is an ecologically unsound enterprise: expensive to print by reason of the waste of space occasioned by its form. (Well, perhaps back in the old-school un-internetted world.) That most of it is just plain bad, but the rare good poem will breed scads, if not thousands, of inferior copies, and who needs that? Poets are boors, usually poor and in a hundred ways unattractive people to have around. Give a fellow food, money and opportunities to score off his enemies and he is not likely to bother with the making of verses in the first instance. Even so, it strikes me that, while I have sympathy for the man’s talking points, he is grossly naïve when it comes to poets. Who are a relentless bunch. Who, more often than not, are born relentless. Who are indifferent as to whether or not they matter to anyone or anything. Who will publish one, if not two books of verses a year, be the author starved or stuffed, loved or held in low esteem. Otherwise: With a hey and a ho, and a hey nonny O, hey ding a ding—