Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

After a chill night, morning. Nikas. Waves of Virgin pop radio as soon as I am in the door. The Albanian waitress of the startling eyes is extra giddy, today, as if some crisis she left at home is nonetheless still on her mind. My oracle of a flowerbox, cheeky, brazen display of flora that graces the restaurant’s streetside window, and is apparently impervious to all the rest of the world and its endless drama queen histrionics, has nothing for me; just that someone out there, in the interest of profit and ratings, is making of science a gigantic fetish. I seem to remember a time when animals, if not the heroes of nature shows, at least highlighted them. Now, it is all the steely-eyed resolve of the yeoman or woman scientist of the gadget and who knows what bug-off spray gets slathered on their bods in exotic climes. And now this? Ah. “Make way for Virgil,” he cried exuberantly into the very faces of the people. “Make way for your poet!” Good golly, Miss Molly, you mean poets once upon a time used to make an entrance, and without the benefices of a bug potion? We are talking Brindisi here, the harbour, and the invalided Virgil’s return to home soil (at Caesar’s behest) from being abroad, this in Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil. I had been idly wandering through the TV channels, one evening, when I alighted for a while on a talk show in which some front rank Canadian intellectual ventured to remark that the current crop of financiers are nothing in comparison to the financiers of, say, the 20s of the previous century: those guys were truly rapacious, say what, Zelda? So what’s all the fuss now? Upon receipt of this intelligence I wanted to command the fellow’s attention by heaving my copy of another Austrian novelist’s opus through the TV screen and let him have some of Wittgenstein’s Nephew for his late night hunger pangs. Was the man an Harperian stooge? There is this Yeatsian knock on Plato: Even the truth into which Plato dies is a form of death; for when he separates the eternal Ideas from Nature and shows them self-sustained, he prepares for the Christian desert and the Stoic suicide. That Plato. Can’t catch a break. Not even from an Irish bard lollygagging it through the Upanishads. (But never mind, all the loose ends of this unfolding screed of the moment shall cohere in due course)—MH tells me that one of our Shakespearean rustics out in the vale was pushing his wheelbarrow of empties past the cabin on the way to the store for yet more beer, and he stopped for a neighbourly chat. Had this story to relate: An ‘outsider’ (meaning city folk) buys a cemetery plot in the good little village of Mansonville. He gets the concrete poured for the grave stone’s base and whatnot. Promptly and immediately thereafter, he drops dead. Waggish MH suggests to the pie-eyed (inebriated) rustic of a neighbour: the moral of the story is, Arnold, don’t go around buying cemetery plots and you just might live forever. Now away with you. Got goodies to pick from my vines—Otherwise, P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, declared the election down there all but sewn up, and in favour of Current President. And that, man, but the pundits have had it so wrong; that the race has been and will be a tight one. Such a crock. Still, his unabashed apologetics for Current President sometimes alarms me inasmuch as it would seem that this particular leader of What Was the Free World can do no wrong. For all that, Mr Carpenter in his writings, presents quite the spectacle of himself dancing, and with a great amount of glee, too, on the grave of those whom he says hijacked the Republican Party and very nearly destroyed the political system of the Shining City on the Hill altogether. But is it time to be singing if you go down in the woods, today, you’re sure of a big surprise—? That is to say, are we out of the woods yet? Now which witch was the wicked one? And just how magical were Dorothy’s magic shoes? Are they a match for whatever it is Mr Rove (that one who was a president’s hypothalamus and hatchet man) is wearing by way of footgear, he in the shadows amassing a huge war chest for 2016, in it for the long haul? No, we are a long ways from being out of the woods, having only just entered them. I have begun reading Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil. Years ago I started in on it, and for some reason put it aside, and for some other reason I never returned to the thing. Was it the adjectival, adverbial bravura of the English translation? It being warmed over Joyce, perhaps? Plus the off-note Flatbush vernacular of the peons? Even so, early on in the book, I come across these words to do with the continuing depiction of Caesar’s procession mentioned at the top of this post, one including himself and his ‘poet-enchanter’, snaking its way from the pier into the harbour town: These were the masses for whom Caesar had lived, for whom the empire had been established, for whom Gaul was conquered, for whom the Parthians were besieged and Germany brought into battle, these were the masses for whom the great peace of Augustus had been made, who, to maintain this peace had to be brought again to civic discipline and order, to belief in the gods and to a humanly-divine morality. And these were the masses without whom no policy could be carried out and on whose support Augustus must rely if he wished to maintain himself, and naturally Augustus had no other wish. Yes, and this was the people, the Roman people, whose spirit and honor he, Publius Vergilius Maro, he a real farmer’s son from Andes near Mantua, had not so much described as tried to glorify! To glorify and not describe, that had been the mistake, oh, and this represented the Italy of the Aeneid! Evil, a tide of evil, an immense wave of unspeakable, inexpressible, incomprehensible evil seethed in the reservoir of the plaza; fifty thousand, a hundred thousand mouths yelled the evil out of themselves, yelled it to one another without hearing it, without knowing it was evil, nevertheless willing to stifle it and outshout it in the infernal bellowing. What a birthday greeting! Was he the only one to realize it?—My answer then to all those who have asked me (and Too Tall Poet asked me just the other day): why Rome? Why Rome-America? London Lunar, however, wonders if Broch really got Virgil down on the page, and that the novel will go on to distinguish itself for me as a monumental bore. He has registered his disapproval of the book by leaving its last twenty pages unread. I have to say though that my initial foray into the book solidified my predilection to the ‘Virgilian’ for which I have had the pleasure of the scorn of  certain front rank Canadian intellectuals; but that the predilection did lead to the odd poem and the novel I wrote in which the Augustus figure has degenerated into the Decider of GWB and the poet into a parody of a Cassandra, and a male one, at that, the entirety of his career an affront to Apollo, it would seem; the intellectuals nothing, but the gods – hey, you don’t want to piss those guys off