Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

Morning. Nikas. The Albanian waitress with the startling eyes, and with some disdain in them just now, clears a table of the previous night’s revelry. Wine bottles. Smudged glasses. Food-encrusted plates. Yes, and those germ-laden serviettes. “Looks like fun,” I say, testing the waters for her mood. “Sure,” she says, her voice piling on intonation, “you want to try it?” No, I do not especially want to try it. Been there, done that when it comes to restaurant work. Being there, doing that, Eddie, owner-cook, is in the kitchen. He is whistling good cheer on general principles. It is all a crock, and he knows it; and he knows that you know he knows it. He winks anyway, and would rather be in Kooba (Cuba) on the beach in paisley cargo pants. And he doesn’t even drink—A book I have been reading in bits and pieces – Broch’s The Death of Virgil – is turning strange, if it has not been passing strange all along. I mean, what is it with dying poets and un-space; and perhaps there is un-time, too, to complement un-space and all that dark energy of parody which, properly harnessed, might propel us, one day, across interstellar vastness? What is it with the mob in the piazza that, forever and ever, will always signify the bulk of humanity and all its witless desires that the poet, for all his tsk-tsking, cannot condemn, as he has traded in the same currency? Ah, we do not like mobs; would not be caught dead in such a mob; but we are all of that mob, nonetheless, as our mothers are; as are all our intimates, even our old high school history teacher who, with increasing sadness, would still pursue the futility of teaching history to arrogant little dolts such as we were getting to be; and we have now had our spawn and have saved the world, and our spawn have their wunderkind on the go, and in them the saving of the world is about to attain its zenith. I am given to understand that a certain age group of Canadian poets is now writing the best ever poetry ever put to page in this fair nation-state. It is the 35 to 45-ish batch of incubated wordsmiths. Any time now, and the next age group, Saskatchewanites, maybe, will be writing the best poetry written in the entire world ever—Never mind that a poet will be lucky enough to have written one decent poem in the course of a lifetime, let alone bash along like an inexhaustible oracle spewing hexametered zingers. Poetry as power point—MH, back from a high school reunion to the south of here, tells me that, from what she could gather, small business was all for Romney. Otherwise, small-town Ohio and its taverns: all autumn and football colours. The red. The white. The fists pumping air. Just as she remembered from childhood, or almost. And she thought no one then paid her any never mind, but that the persons she thought mattered in school were all haunted by loneliness and inadequacy, and here it is they thought her the only bright one. Baseball play-offs, and some darling, bottom of the ninth, hits a walk-off homerun, and the stadium erupts; and there is no cheering like that of the cheering in the U.S. of A. which says,  it may be madness, but it’s our madness, and the rest of the world just does not get us – it’s our loneliness, our inadequacy—What do you know, but that E gets it. E, now only a fill-in Nikas waitress, seeing as she has found respectability translating ad copy between the two official languages, gets it that in Fellini’s 8 ½, the man was already applying well-appointed sarcasm to a post-modernism that did not yet know it was the jewel in the crown of the intellect of our times; even as the film director, the man-artist did not think it beneath him to depict the pain there is in being a young woman; the pain there is in being an old man; the pain there is in being the wife philandered upon; the Holy Ghost, as ever, a magic act. And then, years later, and the magic was done, used up, spent all to hell, Brando in full-out pratfall. One of the worst flicks ever cobbled together was shot in the immediate vicinity of the cabin MH and I have in the Townships (just up the road, in fact, past the Jewett store); and perhaps Brando was saying that, if you are going to go down all stinky and loathsome and grotesque, then let it rip. It’s what the children want; so let them have it. Certainly Mr Biden mopped the floor with Mr Ryan in the one-off vice presidential debate, but even so, even though Mr Ryan was outgunned and very much outclassed, he looked to me like he was oblivious to the pain that ought to have been tearing through him head to toe, Nazi toad that he is. His voice, part squeal, part effeminate fervour, granted the point that the battle was lost, but that the war was in the bag. Well, we will see, I suppose. The math says he is mistaken, but sometimes arithmetic does not tell the whole story. At some point in the past week, Irish Harpy, after inspecting the washroom in Nikas for evidence of laxity on the part of the staff, as well as evidence of the local drug trade, coffee cup in hand, had a great deal to say of the earthquake that briefly unsettled Montreal nerves. “Godd—n it to hell,” she said, “but it shook me.” Had I somehow missed the irony in her recounting of the event? From Broch’s The Death of Virgil: Woe to the man who has not shown himself equal to the grace bestowed upon him, woe to the penitent who cannot bear his penance, woe to the creaturely remnant of existence who will not put off his existence, alas, who cannot do so, because the extinguished memory persists in its emptiness—and here, I am now gotten myself lost in the above tangle of words; but yes, as for the woe to do with the grace that man or woman refuses, this I have seen all my life; this I have wondered about all my life. I have asked myself what shall be the consequence of an entire culture of all genders refusing it? Surely, one does not have to be a poet, let alone a dying poet, let alone a Canadian version of the same to get at some kind of an answer.