Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

Morning. Nikas, the Christmas decorations in place. The lights bespeaking ‘festivity, festivity’ somehow matter to Alexandra the waitress, above and beyond any business pretense of honouring the season, but I cannot tell you why. She is Greek, despite her vague resemblance to Anna Magnani who was Italian, very much so in The Rose Tattoo which I happened to see the other night. Her religiosity is most likely more a matter of a way of life than a fervently-held faith and yet, it is probably a safe bet that it runs much deeper than my intellectualized acquaintance with the early history of the church. Yes, and a slathering of wet snow outside, and how did I get Zagreb and its Christmas market in my head? Well, there is the shrill radio. Its patter is laced with the First Principles of how it is he or she who shouts the loudest and the longest will get the buyer to buy-in. Siege warfare. Alexandra the waitress has need of these voices as they seem to have a calming effect on her wonky and homesick nerves—The other day, in my reading, I came across ‘scrump’. I believe it was my first ever exposure to the word, one brought to me courtesy of Tom Lowenstein’s From Culbone Wood – In Xanadu, notebooks and fantasias, Shearsman Books. It is a book about which I have mixed feelings thus far. The word in question refers to a specific sort of thievery such as I was familiar with once upon a time; how we American army brats in a country we happened to be occupying would go off-base and raid the surrounding orchards for pears and apples and the like. We would filch highway reflectors as well with which to adorn our rods, our hopped-up bicycles. Scrump: to steal fruit. Scrumper? Scrumpee? Now he runs on, and on he runs, / And runs while she stands mute, / She, whose pale skin I had viewed last night, / Blushes crimson as the cider fruit—I am also reading something that falls between genre fiction and historical romance and straight-out historyan account of a Berlin family from the turn of the century to the Nazi years. I wish I could tell you that it is great writing; it is not. Still, the book does one thing well; it shows how easy it is to achieve monstrosities of spirit once sufficient amounts of cataclysm succeed in gutting a culture, so much so, the wingnuts and the deeply, deeply sullen acquire latitude in which to operate; and the poor and the oppressed and the disenfranchised, once let out from under, do not always vote on the right side of history and do not always come to behave in a saintly manner. Nothing is guaranteed. No, says a poet of my acquaintance whose name I will withhold so as not to trifle with the innocent, “Being a good poet is like being a bassoonist. Who cares? What could possibly constitute a break for a bassoonist?” I have agonized on this for days. Perhaps I have done so for years—In the meantime, as I extend my repertoire on the guitar to include Bartoli’s ‘Aubade’, some imp in me now wants to rhyme aubade with ‘my bad’. I am working on a version of John Fahey’s ‘What the Sun Said’ and I have come to rename it ‘Celtic Twilight’. The cheek. But if you want bloody cheek, New Neighbour comes over and says that if I am looking for the main driver of history, I ought to investigate profit motive. Otherwise one may as well muck about in some Jurassic Park of dead ideologies and conflicts of religion and blood gone as passé as Ivan the Terrible and all the Plantagenets. I then recalled how, on my second Italian junket, it had seemed the evening throngs in the piazzas had melted away, TV the Pied Piper that had choreographed the maneuver. A certain kind of decorum, or that which allows people to ‘hang’ with one another and not destroy each other in the process, as per the ubiquitous Thanksgiving dinner table, was bleeding out of the body-politic and into a memory-hole. I recently went to an open mike session of poetry and song on the theory that I might locate the lost decorum. It was all pretty dreadful, but there was some life in evidence, more so perhaps than what a more officially sanctioned literary fete might have on offer. P.M. Carpenter to the south of here, in his distinguished political commentaries, continues to insist that Americans will muddle through, even after the assassination of JFK and through all the anniversaries of the said event. No mention of the shooting of RFK that was the added exclamation point, the ‘for emphasis’ in the annals of the death of hope. I am a cynic and do not put much stock in hope, but I am willing to admit that when it goes out like a lamp in the window, a certain pall does indeed settle on the land. After a while, this pall begins to look like luminescence—