Ephemeris by Norm Sibum


Pruinescence is a word, even if my spell-check function has other ideas. You can, if you wish, consult an actual or virtual dictionary for the last word on a seldom-used unit of language. Moreover, by way of what the item signifies, you will have it acknowledged: what cute tricks nature gets up to at times. Otherwise I am losing interest in the book From Culbone Wood – In Xanadu, notebooks and fantasias, Tom Lowenstein, Shearmans Books; just that in loyalty to a longstanding friendship I will probably have to continue reading the damn thing lest I be struck off the Christmas list or find myself consigned to a corner of Social Media where Social Medeas of all genders hold court and spread punitive measures around. In my friend’s estimation, the book is about how poetry comes to be poetry, its author writing in the voice of an imagined Coleridge. The book has passages that stop one in one’s tracks and then there are – what? sentences that string those passages together and seem plotted out by a flake, to put not too fine a point on it. So then, I am drifting back to The Annals (Tacitus, good old Tacitus). Zibaldone still looms like a thundercloud in the distance—Simone Petrèment’s book on the origins of Gnosticism has, however, obtruded, and I find myself returned to my juvenile years and the cheap theologizing I indulged in back then. For which I perhaps deserve to be shot. The book is dredging up all sorts of long-inert thoughts, including those thoughts that have comprised my skepticism as to the existence of a Deity. So too my skepticism in respect to the more Pollyann-ish aspects of evolutionary theory as presented by its smiley cheerleaders on the Charlie Rose Show and the like. Those blithe pronouncements on life’s intangibles (there aren’t any, really, it’s just poets having themselves a hoot) strike me as shaky as the reasonings of the more vociferous bleacher sections of the Tea Party down south. Again, what can one say? As ever: the Old Testament God is no one’s idea of a touchy-feely god; nature is nasty stuff, and humankind is not exactly comprised of sweethearts, no matter how endearingly the comics render specimens of the species in their talk-shtick. No doubt McGravitas will charge me with overly exercising my pessimism (as he did the other night when I forgot my manners and indicated that I was leery of the claim that certain techniques of meditation will induce regime change, I mean, bring about alterations in one’s hitherto self-destructive behaviour); but then that is what makes McGravitas McGravitas: he would be sanguine now getting on for retirement age; would be a much-mellowed Schopenhauer rosy from the warmth of sausages and pints of beer and not minding too much being, in his person, a favoured repository of cosmic time on loan. God love him, and he is much loved, in any case—Esteemed Publisher was in town, speaking of the much loved. Martinis were shaken, not stirred. Fresh from a pow-wow on government funding of the arts, he more or less disclosed that a fundamental shift in policy was possibly in the works. An altered mandate. You know, if it ain’t fixed, break it. In any event, publishers are grossly under-valued, or so he sighed. It remains a sweet prospect: to sail into the sunset of a lake named after the feast day of a saint, ‘tarry time’ in full effect. It would certainly be less harrowing than weathering book reviews—At some point in the course of the past two weeks, I had whiskeys with the Moesian. The bar was new to us. It might have lurched out of a Bukowski short story, all those lost Faye Dunaways with their bagfuls of Wonder Bread and jugs of muscatel, the grocery run completed, availing themselves of a pit stop before heading home to some Palace Hotel. We were each of us earnestly going on about something, the Moesian and I. Perhaps how it is generally a mistake to explicitly depict acts of sex in one’s writing, as it will only reveal one’s profound ignorance of the subject. (And why that young woman was ballet-ing from one end of the bar to the other seemed altogether unanswerable, and she might have been Persephone on a three-day pass from Hades, stoned to the eyeballs. But then the venue was Hades—) Or perhaps it was something else, as in, why write at all when it is all falling down around one’s ears? Self-defense does come to mind, as it has from generation to generation. I had been entreating the man to go see La Grande Bellezza or The Great Beauty (I have seen the movie twice now, which testifies to either how easily I am pleased or how obsessive I can get), but I guess he does not appreciate being railroaded into doing his cultural duty—The words ‘the New New New Proto-Fascism’ popped into my head like the cherries of an old school slot machine one wintry night in recent days when I was out with Golden Girl. Our intention was to dine, then descend upon a reading at the Yellow Door like a pair of wing-weary migratory birds in need of spiritual R&R. We heard out Alice Petersen as she read a little gem of a prose piece, and then, subsequently, well – those aforementioned words in single quotes had occasion to try me, as if trial balloons in a hot house atmosphere of very unstable geist. It could be that they wished to determine if their import just might achieve traction. More I cannot say, as I would indubitably piss off more than a few darling campaigners. Micro-Aggression Committees indeed, such as seem to have gained moral ascendancy on a few university campuses here and there. In light of which one could say that it has taken five or so decades for the 60s to find themselves thoroughly parodied, if not gutted, the pettiness of the left-of-centres rivaling that of right wing nutters. Ah, spiritual breakthroughs and looking spiffy for one’s literary agent—There has been the fact of Michael Glover aka Foulard having gone to the funeral of Sebastian Barker, poet-son of George Barker and Elizabeth Smart, and reporting on the affair for The Independent. What little I have seen of Sebastian Barker’s poems over the years did not cause me to turn cartwheels on my living room rug, but I am told by reliable sources that he became quite the poet in his last years, and I will have to trim my sails accordingly. Alright then. London Lunar was also in evidence, inwardly sorrowful, and outwardly – well, I have no idea. Mr Barker seems to have been a truly good sort, and when such a fellow passes on, it does hollow out some portion of the core of one’s existence. And if love’s folly, let fools’ beauty rule—Here in Nikas, the lunch hour in the record books, Alexandra the waitress still has no better taste in music than she had when she got herself into this sorry business. Eddie the cook has a trip to Mecca to make. I may bugger off this weekend and alight upon Crow in his North Hatley habitat, who likes his natural philosophy and his single malt neat—