Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

Whoever hoisted the donkey onto the roof will have to bring him down—from Gabriel Levin’s The Dune’s Twisted Edge, Journeys in the Levant, The University of Chicago Press, in respect to Arabic sayings. Perhaps the saying is cousin to General Colin Powell’s you break it you own it, the recollection of which invites the following: that every once in a while one wants to yell out the word ‘obscenity’. It would be a holding forth festooned with a thousand exclamation points. One wants to redefine the word, never mind that one is only rattling on in unrelieved impotence. Definition: Syria. Definition: Iraq. Definition: any brainchild of Bush and his merry band of neo-cons, all of whom got home safely from the dance and have no regrets and apparently nothing to answer for all these years later. Consider Nairobi’s slums. Well, consider them. How Cheney’s name may not be written on them, but that his shadow darkens a few hovels, as do the shadows of not a few other plenipotentiaries and corporate guns for hire. One wants to put it to P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here: “Sir, well and good that you are routinely castigating the Republican Party upside the head and back down again, but give me ten good solid reasons why I should continue to defend, with all the best will I can still summon, the best intentions of Current President, nominally a Democrat, you accusing the left-of-centres of having unreal expectations of the man? Oh, that he can snap his fingers, and presto! one more item is checked off the to-do list. He is, after all, the world’s most powerful entity. After Oprah, that is. Guantanamo? It shall be done. Drone warfare? A mere blot on the escutcheon. Gay rights? In the express lane. But try and embarrass us, the state, and your arse is grass.” Well, sex and gossip are life’s only pleasures apparently; and then there is the obligatory chore of moral ascendancy which, in some circles, manages to attain orgasmic crescendos.An additional definition of obscenity, besides the Current PM’s notions of how best attend to our wayfaring souls: the soul-sucking operations of professional literariness in the Canadian mode, to which the only recourse appears to be divorce, Italian style. And yet, perhaps no industrial practice of that sort may rival just how low curatorship can sink. Take the Whitney Museum in New York and then suppose that Coltrane the jazz man is being honoured, inasmuch as he is now reverenced by a heap of coal and a choo-choo train. Yet another outbreak of the clever? Now has poetry been all that important? Silly me, I will always say it has, but on some days conviction drops the hammer a little less resolutely than on others. I heard it in a bar one night on St Laurent, J.P. doing the talking: “Eloquence is not the first thing on everyone’s mind, not by a long shot, but is the politics of equal gender representation on the boards of all the mornings of the world the cutting-est cutting edge? The acme of derring-do? The whipped froth in our coffee?” Should it seem to you I am subjecting various flagships of contemporary positivism to some lobbed rotten eggs in order to show just how much evil out there remains unaddressed, if not enabled by all that touts itself as running well ahead of the curve, then you are seeming right. One more unwieldy paradox: justice is not only in short supply on this earth, there is so much of the stuff about that we, just to be sporting, take to beating ourselves to a pulp with it. Kind of like the medieval practice of self-flagellation: it covers bases. I am considering the possibility that the verses in Daryl Hine’s posthumous Reliquary (Fitzhenry & Whiteside), all in a minor key, are the equal of, if not superior to a great many poems in these parts that would scan the universe and ping with major resonance. For all that, inasmuch as Mr Hine fell afoul of the nationalist imperative, the man has been one more example of how Canada, in contradistinction to how America goes about it, or Great Britain, or Pakistan or Uganda, for that matter, eats its own. London Lunar was seen lunching with bel cantos. Jose Bautista’s homerun swing is a finely tuned mechanism. By chance MH found a copy of Conrad’s Chance on a Greek island. It contains within its pages an early discussion of feminism. Ouzo, Conrad, the breeze off the sea—There was an old man in her village named Penis, so named, he said, because it was so big. He might as well have been offering up a weather report as be nonplussed over a part of his anatomy. Religion and sex trumped taxes. One kept the bones of one’s parents around in a box. The islanders were Ohioans in disguise, so much so MH felt quite at home. In Athens she came across some contemporary oils that truly impressed her. It is still possible to paint in a representational fashion and so, do an end run around all the cleverness and crystallized logic of the moment such as reflects the activities of the mind currently in play, everything that is, but life itself. So then, apropos of, oh, not much: But this custom has been the destruction of poets; for they are now  in the habit of composing with a view to please the bad taste of their judges, and the result is that the spectators instruct themselves—from Plato’s Laws