Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

Encore Literary Magazine is very pleased that after taking a brief reprieve from Ephemeris to launch his novel The Traymore Rooms, today Norm Sibum resumes his bi-weekly Ephemeris schedule.

Juniper has the look of a man about to blow town. We wish him luck, should he blow. But can we speak any longer of the Great Setting-Out, the wide, wide world gotten narrow? That I consider Montreal to be the most habitable city of an arrangement of polities adding up to a nation-state is not seriously put into jeopardy by Juniper poised to defect so as to get his succour elsewhere, be it Halifax, Windsor or Abbotsford. So as to get his daily munch by way of virtue or crook. So as to survey his horizons from a new passel of coordinates. But even here we are not immune to a sit-com values-quest on the part of our provincial bestest and brightest looking to channel the secularizing drift of the Napoleonic Code. I am speaking of a legislative bent that seems to have swept the imaginations of our political masters here in Quebec. Yes, let us keep church and state separate and all the rest of it, but even though it has been a while since I last read up on any code, Napoleonic or biblical or otherwise, it seems to me you cannot legislate the intangibles of which a religious symbol may or may not partake. (Then again, if we can deposit men on a passing asteroid, I suppose we can damn well socially engineer anything we please.) I have been reading S&S, Sense and Sensibility to you. What odd circumstance has brought this on? How goes that war between the forces of sense and those of sensibility that perhaps began with the equivalent civility of a croquet match but has now attained all the lethality of a world-consuming shout of “Action stations!” It goes, at any rate. The Secretary of State calls for punitive action vis-à-vis chemical weapons use on the part of the Syrian regime, and in so doing, what with the indignant quaver in his voice, he enlists on the side of Marianne Dashwood for whom all circumspection smacks of philistinism and mediocrity, let alone ill-breeding. This same Secretary of State, the other day, lets drop an idle remark, and instantly, his bet is raised by Putin who would have Assad’s back: “Sure, you want the stockpiles, the chemical weaponry? The keys to the chastity belt and the kingdom? You can have it all, and you can even cause it all to disappear if you like, if it’ll put a muzzle on your cruise missiles and your selective memories.” Unintended consequence perhaps, but in the end, Current President is now delivered from a bind in which he has been languishing, having tripped over a red line and having pitched headlong into a hole that just kept getting deeper, moral facades tending to the bottomless. Unintended consequence: that it is seemingly a less unipolar world now. That it is now oh so 19th century. Syria and the shenanigans of the diplomacy pertaining to its civil war? A Gothic horror wrapped in Greek tragedy sugared up with farce. Closer to home, the poutine place on St Denis – which serves as an anteroom to Guitar Teach’s walk-up salon – has exchanged the likes of Chopin and Brahms for the likes of John Denver and Fleetwood Mac, and, as per Marianne Dashwood, I am dashed by this development. Fries sizzling in their vats, mazurkas in the speakers, sweat-shirted idlers in the adjacent park reading Baudelaire perhaps or pursuing pagan antiquities, office workers on lunch break at their outdoor tables, some young woman walking by who puts one in mind of an old flame – all of it deserves better than the wheedlesome, cheesy deliquescence of Almost heaven West Virginia; than the love that will, for sure, go wrong—There seems to have been a lot going on in the stretch of time in which I have been taking a break from ‘posting’. Which is my excuse for not having been assiduous with the note-taking. But I do observe that in the little notebook I pack about, no doubt in the half-light of some bar, I scribbled Manning, Snowden, chill, regime, chill again; and I did expect to bring to the light of day the horrors those words point at. Something about another Rubicon sloshed through and crossed, another corner rounded, the Presidency unravelling badly, the republic looking as bashed up as a demolition car in the rigours of a derby. Notwithstanding the fact that the Principate has been installed for some time now, and Sejanus once a snoop, poisoner, hit man and all-around mercenary player, is now so much more voluminous, hydra-headed; and has at his beck and call as many electronic trinkets as might get him an industrial secret or two; get him his drone strikes and his quota of flighty whistleblowers with their commodious closets chock full of afflictions that plague psyches. It was P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, who initially foisted the concept on his public of the Greek tragedy-Gothic horror-farce which I duly stole and put to use above. He has been writing that it is too painful to watch: Current President tying himself to a déjà vu moment of Wilsonian silliness. (Mr Carpenter notes that the President’s fifth year of office has been downright ugly, but that he expects the man to regain his footing and equipoise and turn things around.) For the life of me I still cannot make this particular POTUS out, and in the course of trying, I ask myself how many corrupted principles, how many moral collapses, how much more pretzeling of logic will it take to bring on The Ineradicable Lie, the new normal as per vulgar parlance? Oh, we are there already, so I am told. Current President who was supposed to be everything Bush was not – I find I cannot complete the sentence on account of a relapse into some juvenile hissy fit, and because one may have to wait a hundred years for the true history of this chapter of the annals to emerge. Obama, Kerry, Hagel, Pelosi – are they not, in theory at least, politicians who were supposed to be bigger than the politics to which they would hogtie the so-called American Dream? There is no longer any point in dissing their competitors: the politicos and blowhards whose barbecues are lit and whose beers are cold, who wish to see the likes of Jesse Helms cloned to the nth degree so as to swamp Congress with all those likenesses. They are there and they are not going away anytime soon, who despise liberals for being liberals, whereas we here look askance at them for being Weimarian and feckless on all fronts—A viewing was had, recently, of Master and Commander at my apartment. An appealing movie, for all that History might suggest it is so much romanticist bilge – imperialism served up with a side order of Darwin and manly honour. Why then does it appeal? Beats me. But as it appeals and so little else does, I will watch it again so as to remind myself that science once bespoke intellects given to insatiable curiosity, not to a boarding up of windows and a SWAT-style policing of the mind. But is there a Jonah in Current President’s merry band of pranksters and salts and cultists? A session was held on the roof of McGravitas’s apartment. And to hear MH speak of it, and to hear McGravitas speak to it, and even to hear myself speak to certain matters pertinent to the general discussion; and as a lovely evening was honoured with the distinction of being eternally summery and lovely, it was concluded that despite our best efforts to the contrary, all of us wind up carrying forward into time a little of what our mommies and daddies had been, for better or worse. Consequently I had every intention of quoting Caroline Clark on memory and the nature of time, but I realize now I cannot bring it off without doing violence to her context. At any rate, and quite apart from anything I might think on the matter, in her essay ‘What’s Going to Happen?’ (it calls attention to a book entitled The Science Delusion written by a certain Sheldrake), she seems to be saying that a few clichés to which we resort when explicating memory and time to ourselves still hold true, for all that science would dispel them as so much superstitious rot. Memory is as elastic as the duration of our conscious time on this earth. One is always remembering everything. And living. And evaluating. And cringing. And dying a little. And remembering some more. All this remembering and living and evaluating and cringing and dying and remembering some more – it is a continuum or something very like one; that the operations of memory are as inseparable from breathing as a concatenation of nerve impulses. Until, that is, one is not doing any of those things any longer. Moreover, one comes to a certain pass in one’s life and one is stunned to recognize something in oneself that is both estranged and yet so near, both unreal and yet so familiar. Those dread parents and et cetera. The triumphs. The failures. The shattering regrets. One bumps up against something in oneself as exotic as compassion for any human being at the mercy of his or her own contradictions and paradoxes. And, to latch onto a loose thread in this post hanging somewhat limp in a blustery breeze, of course science and poetry are at loggerheads in this particular patch of time. And of course there are minds skulking about that can accommodate either as prettily as you please—Amanda Jernigan has published a new collection of poems. All the Daylight Hours, Cormorant Books. A lot of rhyme and meter without the neo-classical winks and nods. She goes to the head of the class, without question. Even so, I have a philosophic suspicion or two that might, some day, conduce to a critique; something to do with the notion that Greek myth is a messier business than her poems allow for. But not now. I will, for the time being, confine myself to enjoying the poet’s craft. I will also report that London Lunar, in his new capacity as Impresario of Unlikely Happenings, managed to corral 80 people into a single venue so as to listen to Michael Hersch the composer play the piano, the same fellow whose brain is being studied by John Hopkins University on account of the man’s ability to retain a memory, at a single hearing, of an almost infinite succession of notes—