Ephemeris by Norm Sibum


Morning. Nikas. Irish Harpy has already inspected the washrooms, but Alexandra the waitress was one step ahead of her with the mop, her general cheery outlook still going strong, if somewhat on the wane. In respect to which London Lunar might have said: “You can’t be petty enough.” He has said those very words, but I doubt he had the restaurant here in mind; rather he has had dealings of late, in his capacity as a man of culture, with various prima donnas of various endeavours, to do with piano, poetry and potato sack races. He has been Daffy Duck in a cartoon strip full of sadists. Be that as it may, he has also said that film is likely the only art in which it is possible for an idiot to shine, the film in question The Last Picture Show. Its director was a fellow named Bogdanovich whom London Lunar met and considered as something on the order of a creep. But who knows what plonk LL was drinking that night and whether we can take him at his word?—McGravitas, with all the ghosts of Newfoundland in his voice, has been busy converting tragedy (or the stuff of his love life) into farce. Given the right conditions, he could match any Richard Burton or Dylan Thomas or Basil Bunting (“braaaagggg, sweet tenor bull”) when it comes to the recitation of verses, but then he would likely be a little unsteady on his feet, and not from packing the weight of a barrelhouse baritone around. Leopardi suggested, back in the early 1800s, that good writing comes of nature, not habit. Good luck teasing the import of that remark through the eye of a needle—I was out in Vale Perkins for a couple of days where sheer serendipity had me playing catch with childhood’s mitt and hardball in the yard, and an old body caught a glimpse of one of its past lives. There was playing the guitar as part of a cultural exchange in Miss Jewett’s kitchen, she feeding me wine and regaling me with her views of the Ukraine and Israel-Palestine, all of which views, however trenchant, were beside the point, seeing as politics is an echo chamber made of see-through sows’ ears—There was listening to Astral Weeks (the only Van Morrison album I have ever been able to abide); and what it brought back to me, from the 60s and 70s, was leisurely eroticism and the apocalyptic. Next up was Cape Fear, the Robert Mitchum edition, those heavy eyelids of the actor saying that being born purty is no guarantee of nuttin’—Received: Gabriel Levin’s latest book of verse: Coming Forth by Day, Carcanet Press. The poems have titles like ‘Moonrise over Pythagorio’; ‘Lines Written on the Trail to Manolates’; ‘Berber Salou’; ‘The Orphic Egg’. This post’s Leopardi take-away (without fries) is as follows: Another great difference between ancient and modern comedy is that the former was taken from popular or domestic things, or at least not from the finest conversation, which anyway did not exist then, at least it was not so refined. But modern comedy, French especially, revolves principally around the most exquisite society, the affairs of the most refined aristocracy, the domestic adventures of the most fashionable families, etc. etc. (as did, proportionately, Horace’s comedy, too), so that the ancient was a comedy that had body, like the blade of a sword that is not too sharp but lasts a long time, whereas the modern has a very fine point (more or less, according to the times and the nations) and so in the twinkling of an eye, it is worn down and finished, and can’t be felt by ordinary people, like the first cut of a razor—