Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

By way of McGravitas I learn that Pascal once remarked the following: ‘People should have the good sense to stay in their rooms.’ Or perhaps it was not Pascal in a dour state of mind who spoke those words, but a sniffy authoritarian type irked about chaos; or a Stalin or a Pinochet defending exotic interpretations of the rule of law. Could have been Sid Caesar into the argot for the laughs. Perhaps it was McGravitas himself, irritable on account of the recent humidity. He was heard to report on the rear terrasse at Grumpy’s that one cannot seize time in its passage. Either these words were his own or he was absconding with the goods from one of his favourite poets or theologians or book store clerks. In any case Blonde Venus (1932, ‘pre-code’) turned up on one of the movie channels, a thing of fantastical romantic entanglement; and yet the flick is direct and frank in tone however much suffused with Marlene Dietrich’s ironic countenance and hot voodoo and mother love. War and Peace (1956) also turned up, but apart from some passages of genuine visual glory, the movie is pretty much a lead-footed affair, despite an amiable Audrey Hepburn and a sparkling Anita Ekberg out to paint the town red with her opera glasses. (This has got to stop forthwith, this film critiquing. As if it could throw a spanner in the works of certain darlings here and there in the western world determined to go fascist, even if it kills them.) It is London Lunar who takes a dim view of most bio-pics. The equivalent of street art, he blithely opines. No great depth of characterization, for one thing. But then, what is there to characterize in a celebritous pin-up male or female? An instance of the genre suiting the harrowing rigours of the times. The other day, I had occasion to do laundry. In my sixth decade, I still lack for a washing machine. So I stepped into the street with my bag of duds and failure in life. Wound up at Laundromat Central down the street very near a bar, which was arguably part of the plan. Fed quarters into a machine, set the settings, and off I trundled for a beer and a sit-down and some notebook jottings. Entered the bar and early Rolling Stones greeted my ears. All to the good, seeing as the bar in question is actually a place for which I have no great affection. Yet I admired the stuffed owl that had pride of place above the shelves of liquor. Had it in mind to call it Roscoe. Hey, Roscoe, how’s tricks?Oh, time, time, time is on my side—The usual pecking order of drunks in situ. Those undone and pretty shaky. Those in better shape and still imagining they have things under control. The young and their f-bombs and utter lack of imaginative discourse. In walks a woman of indeterminate age. A waifish blonde who has been up against it, clearly. Exaggerated dignity. Probably cursed with a fair bit of bravado even now. She struggled with the bar stool. She struggled with her purse. Now and then she looked off into space as objects of mass and some energy continued to confound her attempts at securing not so much order but accommodation. Eventually she managed to right herself on her perch and order a drink. She struck up a conversation with the bar maid who leaned toward professionally polite chitchat. White-haired, well-laundered man in Bermuda shorts seated close to her served notice that he was keeping this interloper at arm’s length. It seemed to me she was neither a scrounge nor any other sort of pest, just someone looking for a little companionship. Perhaps there was something in the beer, I beginning to see her as Pip in Moby Dick. Even so, I did not like myself much as I avoided her gaze, pleading to myself that should I engage her in conversation I would never be rid of the woman. A voice sounded in my head, a voice that indicated it knew how to talk to this person and put her at her ease, and we could all of us feel a little human. It certainly was eerie, recognizing that voice as my father’s. He had spent his last years presiding over a coterie of stalwarts in a small town bar on afternoons such as these and well into the evening, all strays welcome. End of story. Just that some sniffy type had taken up a place at the counter, newspaper spread before him. He appeared to know the woman, asking where she had been for the last while. Well, Ontar-I-O. It was as if the logic of her life dictated that she spend quality time in that grand province, but that she also throw it over for the uncertainties and wild and woolly travails of life in Quebec. It would seem she had had something to do with some boxers notorious in these parts, mention of whom meant something to her interrogator; and this might have gone some way to explaining who she was and the pass to which she had come. Or perhaps not. Says Christopher Middleton in Palavers & A Nocturnal Journal, Shearsman Books, 2004, damn, can’t find the page – but anyway, something about the more ‘human’, the more accessible and less elitist poets try to make poems, the more the poems come off as devoid of humanity. Patronizing, at the very least. But, to play devil’s advocate, and as my verses get fairly garrulous, I have to say that what partakes or does not partake of the sublime in a poem has nothing to do with intellectual process—Just thought I would mention it.