Ephemeris by Norm Sibum



Literary Thug #1 swung by to drink a beer or two and discuss matters. The man cannot help being thuggish. It is not a literary conceit on his part; he was born that way for better or worse, and before thuggery got to be a literary calling-card in these parts. So, at ‘bratwurst’ under new management, we kept management up past its bedtime, talking everything and nothing, including what Mafiosi consider good cinema. Old Yeller?  Could be. But those Godfather bits that show dons and their foot-soldiers as having decent impulses might be more to the point. I too believe that there is organized crime, and then there is the organized crime for which we vote. Uncle Jamal, should some of you wish to know, has moved on. E is in Quebec City learning to translate (I was going to say ‘traduce’ for some reason or other) the official languages one to the other as efficaciously as a speeding bullet. Labrosse has taken up a semi-rural existence and perhaps has exchanged his attaché case for a chainsaw. In another eatery, one on St Denis where I generally mark time until my guitar lesson, I was astonished to hear that Mozart and Haydn and the Boston Pops had given way to Jefferson Airplane. Ah, White Rabbit. (I am sore tempted to write White Wabbit.) One of those old flagship tunes. It seemed a little homelier a half century after its debut, and it was as if it could have been rendered by your auntie, in fact, of the blue hair and heart-shaped spectacles. London Lunar, having pointed me in the direction of Ola Belle Reed, has now acquainted me with Dock Boggs, another banjoist, old country balladeer. Oh Death. This song seems to bear up well through the march of the decades. Now someone said to me recently that being a poet in Canada has no point. It was someone rather mischievous and yet mature and of sound mind, so far as I can recall, she indulging a flip-off remark on the heels of a rather disappointing reading, though McGravitas finished strong with an indecent amount of aplomb. I was not supplied with her whys and wherefores. Hers was a statement indicating closure had been achieved on the matter. But am I to let a remark like that stand unchallenged? Have I no esprit de corps? Or will I be chained to a rock off the Newfoundland coast and a puffin peck at my liver? I went on about the recent revelations to do with surveillance and whatnot in the post previous, and I thought my upsettedness pretty naïve in retrospect; and now, given further revelations, I can see that if one was born before a certain time, what might upset one will not in the slightest faze anyone born in the last thirty years or so, not deep down in the intestines, at any rate. What are principles worth if one is born an empowered narcissist? Despite P.M. Carpenter’s mightiest efforts (the man writes on the nuts, and the nuts and bolts of American politics), it is getting near impossible to defend Current President’s relations with the surveillance state, even if his hands are as tied as they are deemed to be, should he wish relations of another sort. Sometimes one is led to believe that with the fact of empire one can expect all things under the sun to be conducted in a manner somewhat more grand than a drunk in a dive talking to himself. Yes but, pettiness, meanness, the death of true generosity and anything vaguely mimicking a gallant spirit – such are the daily orders. Morning. Nikas. Irish Harpy bitterly complains over the state of the coffee. “Too frickin much salt,” she says. She really does have a capacity for being aggrieved. The waitress sighs. This sigh could have written much of Shakespeare’s theatre, and worked in Moby Dick besides—Well, of course, in Texas, on the outskirts of empire, we dress for dinner, play bridge, you know, but we can’t get Cuban cigars anymore. Too bad, too bad—Christopher Middleton speaking in Palavers and A Nocturnal Journal (CM in conversation with Marius Kociejowski), Shearsman Books, Exeter.