Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

Ishka Girl writes: I told him about Galatea, / the joyful, animated queen. / He told me, make it short - I have / three discs of porn I haven’t seen. (From Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway, Biblioasis.) You serious readers of serious poetry, do not be put off by the title: the light verse aspect of the poesy is only a ruse. The real name of the author is - well, it certainly is not George Eliot Clarke, though it might lend cover to something Dorothy Parker-ish in the verse mix. ­I have also been intermittently at P&P, Pride and Prejudice to you. Did not Joanne Woodward confess to having recourse to ‘Miss Austen’ in The Long, Hot Summer (1958), some drifter in town laying siege to her values? Could be that large portions of the book’s 19th chapter serve as apt perusal matter when it comes to the lampooning of a character; matter from which one might conclude that, besides inattentive Orpheus and Sir Lout, there is a great deal of Mr Collins in the male; and the more solemn and pontifical the wooing of one’s future life partner, the more the girls guffaw. These Mr Collinses. Or is the type extinct? Is the pain, too, of knowing one is as ridiculous as one appears a thing of some literary past? Picture a much affected man of the cloth come down with a Clint Eastwood manner of speech: “Go on, marry me, make my day.” Guffawing girls aside, there is, on the part of the female in Austen’s tale, such delicacy of feeling in regards to the desires of either sex, all of that propinquitous to the flow of cold, hard cash. (And I will probably have done with this book soon and will leave any further comments on it to the ologists in their myriads and to those who study the physics of dark energy.) It is, for now, the brunching hour at Nikas, the place packed with the church crowd. Even so, Alexandra the waitress is in cheer, for all that Larry the software entrepreneur figures her as having the social graces of a rhino with a migraine. In Toronto recently, I was privileged to have the pleasant and not at all pro forma attentions of a barmaid in Miller’s Tavern, where I was marking time between train connections. She fell in love with the button affixed to my lapel, one that read: BLOODY EFFING HELL, my sensibility thereby exposed in the cold light of a Toronto day, business being sanctified commerce and hustling for a buck.But this woman seemed to me out of place, the bank of TV screens and their sports images so many vanity mirrors, the wine-savouring men at table so many amalgams of geek and warrior jock, the women so many well-dressed entities of a corporate scrum. The barmaid with her honest countenance was under-slicked, under-glossed, but probably quite efficient and indispensable to the operation. But why her amiability and freckles should bring to mind a dour Chris Hedges over at Truthdig beats me. The journo has been putting out a call to arms in his online screeds against the one per centers. And I believe he means it, right down to the taking up of pitchforks—But which rich? Old money? Dot.com loot? Wall Street bonanzas? Liberal filthy lucre? No doubt, the rich do not much care any longer as to what boots it for the 99 per centers, but would you voluntarily renounce the contents of your bank account just to be seen as passing through the eye of a needle on your way to a Purgatory well-stocked in all the staples of a pleasurable life-style? Once again, as it does every so often, the name of D.M. Fraser emerges from some conversation or other, he who wrote a novel with class warfare as its apparent theme, one entitled The Voice of Emma Sachs. This Nova Scotian was the shyest of men; was an object of ridicule amidst the more hard-headed politicos - Marxist-Leninist types - back in the day, Vancouver, as Mr Fraser was viewed as compromised by a capacity for compassion in respect to humanity in general. It did not help that his public readings were redolent with self-generated cacophony: that the paper from which he read rattled; that his knees knocked; that his voice quavered badly. No, he could not possibly be a serious man, not even when living hand to mouth on East Hastings and dying of that grim disease which was removing glitterati from the ranks of celebratory culture. He would not now recognize the particulars of a world by which we all of us currently obtain, the train journey from Toronto to Montreal a case in point; every seat a laptop seat; on tap endless reruns of 30 Rock; on tap bizarre disaster flicks; on tap mind-teasers and other ways of killing time, economy-class. There I was reading the Tacitean account of Germanicus in Germania and the Roman massacres of the tribes. The girl across the aisle, she was idly chomping on an apple; she was idly checking her other gizmo for incoming; she was idly surveying the qualities of Brad Pitt; he was idly endeavouring to save the world from a rogue virus (or something along those lines). One asked: “Is it the pretty boy or the catastrophe on which she has a crush?” Or was her performance just a little diversion from her own self-crush? I suppose there was call to arms somewhere in her person, but I fear it had more to do with lifestyle issues than with an honest distribution of wealth. And while this world of ours zippety-doo-dahs its way to eventual extinction, Leopardi’s Zilbadone exerts a certain pressure on a table in my apartment. I am leery of cracking the book open, all 2500 pages of it, knowing that, when I do, it is all I will ever read for the rest of my life. Yes, I will have to invent a PSI quotient for the poundage per square inch that the tome can exert. It is a book, so London Lunar has opined, that renders all other books redundant, as it has the whole of the world in it, save for the world of flesh and blood; which is pretty much the whole world. (Leopardi had a short and chaste life imposed upon him.) He might have been interested to know that the laws of physics get all the more squirrelly, the closer they come to encountering matter. It has been a splendid autumn. The pessimist in me suspects a ploy. It does look like the Republican Party will live to see another day, but for how long? P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south, is still beside himself, charting the party’s self-mutilations, if not its outright immolations. There is no going back to a previous modus vivendi in which all was apparent harmony, as when tacit understandings prevailed against undue monkeying-about with a Constitution. So it seemed. It certainly no longer seems like anything that would remotely resemble a collegiality and back-scratching bonhomie that has the best interests of a nation at heart, those understandings now dedicated to entirely different propositions, other oligarchic legerdemain. What monster is in the making and to which of its body parts we are affixed is beyond my ability to determine, the warm corpse of the republic long since chilled. It is something that someone, one day, will trip over in a bog. Argument shall ensue. What brought the house down? Barbarian incursions? Bloated budgets? Climate change? Ennui? Ill-advised military campaigns? The Four Horsemen at the controls of a nuclear sub? Semiotic poet? ….when we can no longer endure our vices nor face the remedies needed to cure them. As per Livy who was anything but a Jeremiah. His urbanity and his plush sentences will not be found in any Old Testament. They are not to be seen in the smiling eyes of the Sunday brunch crowd here, Alexandra the waitress’s answer for the shortfall the Greek sun that shines like no other sun—