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Ephemeris  January 2012


Jan 31, 2012: The Wire, again, two nights running. In company was E tickled by the sight of Bunk passing himself off as a high-life, deep-sea fisherman whilst he and McNulty engaged in poh-leese work: surveillance from a charter boat in the Baltimore harbour, their target drugs and the sex trade and smuggling. Then she was beside herself when Omar, her favourite thug, appeared in some other scene, he sporting a shirt the logo of which read I AM THE AMERICAN DREAM. Is the whole enterprise for her just more pop culture? Could one have pulled a switch and inserted The Mikado into the DVD player and it make no never mind to her? But why Labrosse should have suddenly launched into Camus and Sisyphus beats me. Question: has the financier been hanging around poets too long? Just that E, at his mention of Sisyphus, pretended to know what he was on about when it was clear she had no idea (she thought he was mispronouncing decisiveness). Somewhat telling, that—I have come to a part in my reading of Livy's history of early Rome when, political experiment, the decemvirs were hit upon as a way of cleaning up a mess. That is, a body of ten men, or magistrates, were selected to codify Roman law such as it was, and the process apparently included the participation of the commons, it having been the desire of the plebeians that the codification be carried out in the first place. To render a complicated story simple, everything was then hunkydory and ticketypoo until the next wave of decemvirs ventured on a power grab and got heavy-handed; and they did not just satisfy themselves with the cancellation of Joe Blow's right of appeal, but that they were rounding up people in the streets and having them executed for good measure— It was the order of the day, the day being roughly 450 B.C. or thereabouts. Well, do you see where this is going? Sure, you do. While my baby walks the streets of Baltimore—Yes, you see where this going. Amongst other things, Cruelty had its reward, and often enough, a victim's property was turned over to his murderer. The decemvirs' young toadies were easily corrupted by such pay, and, far from making any attempt to check their masters' brutal conduct, openly rejoiced in it; for them, personal immunity in crime was a more agreeable thing than national liberty—Morning. Nikas. It is the beginning of Alexandra's weekly waitressing shift. She brings with her all the reality TV she has been watching in her downtime. American Idol and such. In any case, all that she brings comes wafting into this venue on the strength of the mood she now institutes here with the same intensity, I suppose, as her distant forbears once accorded their worship of Artemis or Dionysus. Earlier, I was fooling around on my 'classical' guitar, attempting to recapture a lovely little study by Sergi Vicente that I lost, as I had been playing it with a 'vulgar' technique. Trouble is, a proper application of technique has chased away all the notes from my head and I have mislaid the music's overall shape, my 'picking' hand with the ring finger now in the mix so much limp spaghetti—The upshot of all this being, by way of a near non sequitur, is that I was once again presented with a kind of thorough-going heartache; or that there is so much beautiful music out there I wish to play and will never have the time to master—There is, for example, John Fahey's Irish Setter, another one of those deceptively simple compositions of his balanced between a string of blues notes and a handful of - what can I call them? - partial chords signifying a 'classical' and quite solemn passage such as any of the composing B's would not have sneezed at, you know, Beethoven and the like. Poetry? You mean that art by which too many of its practictioners contrive to draw people through the keyholes of their minds, and those people are never heard from again?—

Jan 30, 2012: Thistle, incommunicado of late, given to a spell of silence in which he figured he had nothing to say but everything to teach, considers that, as per Marx, the epic - as the Greeks went about making it - is an impossibility in these times as the economic conditions are not appropriate to such endeavour, let alone that we are, in some existential sense, no longer in our childhood. The other kicker is the fact that science satisfies or claims to satisfy all our needs in regards to how animate and inanimate entities actually behave in this world and go about their business and so, who needs fanciful tales of how the gods made men? In other words, reality, as such, did not come gushing forth from Zeus's left temple, or was it thigh? So now there is probably going to be an exam and I will most likely flunk it—For all that, there is, in my estimation, no epic unless it includes the point of view of the gods (no matter that they are but human constructs); without these rather feckless sadists coming in and going out of the picture seemingly at whim, there is no Iliad or Odyssey, just episodism - if I may coin a rather creepy sounding word - and overheated melodrama and not a little narcissism on the part of mortals. In the meantime, I continue rereading Livy's history of early Rome. Perhaps it is nothing but coincidence, but my, Livy's account of the endless patrician-plebeian stand-off does, indeed, dovetail with the wild man wild woman stuff of this current election year, primaries and all, and the ruckus that is the so-called 99 per centers versus the 1 per cent foamage at the top—Livy, of course, and I am only supposing, would have much rather preferred to wine and dine on the patrician side of the ledger, the patricians, for the most part, being better spoken and better loved by the gods; but then, how else was the 'mob' going to get itself heard except by 'din' and 'clamour', necessitating a certain want of decorum—And this in light of the fact that Labrosse, semi-retired financier and business counsellor, and E, ingenue, and I, sat around, last night, taking in more episodes of The Wire, second season, as close as we are going to get to 'epic' in anything like a true sense of the word. And here was E, tickled by the briefly-lived spectacle of Bunk shinnying his ample arse for the delectation of his colleagues on the force, his Poh-leese. Ah, light-hearted moment. She lives for those. Not many of them in The Iliad. Certain pleasant personages of my acquaintance allowed me to pretty much make a fool of myself, the other night, on the guitar and with the new penchant for singing, or breaking into voice of a kind. I am terrified as to what extent I may be in their spiritual debt, even if we otherwise litterateured and gossiped; even if I was put under a gag order, forbidden to speculate on a few rather shocking items of interest—We wound up at Maz Bar, defending a pool table against all comers, so much so we were reduced to playing amongst ourselves, little tin gods aloof to the concerns of hackers, their molls lounging about bored to effing tears—London Lunar seems to have had lunch with the queen. Well, he dreamed he had. "Easy to get on with, she is." Mr Hedges, however, Pulitzer-prize winning journo that he is, in his weekly reflections, considers that Canada isn't what it used to be. 'Fraid so—

Jan 28, 2012: Once in a while I come across a sentence in my reading that tells me that on its account I now know everything. Most of the time there is nothing remarkable in or about the sentence - it's just there; it flashes like a strip of neon advising the world of untold delights on the premises, however shabby the reality. I have just read one such sentence in A History of The Early Church, to wit: In character Diocletian was a rude but firm supporter of heathenism of the cruder camp type—And then, a few sentences on, and one has the rub so far as it affects history down to our day: Two courses lay open for a vigorous ruler, either to force it (the church gathering critical mass) into submission and break its power, or enter into alliance with it and thus secure political control of the growing organism— Some might break into one of those eureka-yells here - that there it is, Miss Molly, the point where it all began to go wrong: if Diocletian created martyrs, Constantine, throwing his lot in with the Christians, made for bureaucrats in a category of it was ever thus—Morning. Nikas. Montreal-NDG or the sidewalk directly out front is all ice and black moon pebble. Yes, really. Inside, the toaster just had a little explosion, a little super-nova episode such as caused Alexandra the waitress to catch her breath. London Lunar wants I should turn my ear to Piazzola's Oblivion as rendered up by a certain Kremer. He despairs of our 'literature'. So easy, in respect to it, to appear fearless. All one has to do is shift one's posture ever so slightly while in the heat of an interview; cross the right knee as opposed to the left; suggest that the one nostril is quite capable of flaring independently of the other, and reputations begin dropping from the sky like so many houses of cards. Diocletian the peasant-born autocrat gave up his grip on power and took to raising cabbages. I have always liked this about the man who was, otherwise, as lethal as they came; and I have always liked to believe that his insistence on oriental pomp at court (he had, for all practical purposes, undercut Rome as the capital of the empire by doing business from Nicomedia - somewhere in the Balkans) was purely ironic. Current President on the links - does he have it in mind to 'channel' Eisenhower?

Jan 27, 2012: I began reading Livy's The Early History of Rome backwards, yesterday, because I was feeling perverse, and because I have already it read it front to back, as it were, but quite a while ago. So then, I read the final 'book' first, and then started in on the next to the last book and came across the line - in a lengthy set-speech put in the mouth of Canuleius the reformer who, among other things, was attempting to have the law forbidding intermarriage between patrician and plebeian ranks annulled - that 'rape' is a patrician habit. In any case, of a sudden I had images of the Republican primary TV debates in mind, and I cannot otherwise tell you why—Touché - as a word - was probably not going the rounds in the Forum in those days, but the patricians deserved it, those upper-crusters expressing horror at the notion of plebeian presumption to their family honours and the consequent dilution of bloodlines, not to mention the conceivable offense against the gods that intermarriage would entail—For all that the spectacle of a Romney or Gingrich presidency is frightening enough (and here in Nikas we have just been discussing it - Larry the software entrepreneur and myself), it is more likely that Current President will prevail in his re-election bid; and then, if it is a nightmare scenario one is looking for, either events will more dramatically expose him for his not having been all that he seemed when he came on the scene - as per his left of centre critics, or events will pile on and destroy his presidency, he the victim of bad timing. In either outcome, whatever is left of the spirit of the republic, if anything, will find itself in further jeopardy, more so than if a crazy man does, in fact, win out— Rome may have not been 'democratic' in any sense that we would recognize, but it was certainly 'republican' in temperament; that is to say, the rule of kings was frowned upon by all alike (until the Caesars showed up to put in their innings). In the final book of the history in question there is some compelling reading, indeed, if that is, you do not define compelling as a car chase or a matter of whether or not you should seek sex elsewhere should your spouse come down with a debilitating brain disease. It is the story of daily orders, one thing seeming to lead inexorably to the next, until you have finally got the Gauls inside the walls looking to sack and pillage and rapine—Preceding their arrival, you had the final conquest of Veii, which it was an Etruscan power and rival of Rome all of ten miles away; and you had other notable victories and setbacks all against a backdrop of increasing patrician-plebeian hostilities. Then the thing itself, or the dreaded Gauls - hairy beasts of Rome's worst nightmare. And when the Gauls decided to get down to it and sack in earnest, a decision was made by the Romans to have a small portion of its population hole up on the sacred hill and hang on for as long as possible whilst ex-senators and creaky-kneed aristos and so forth would stall the invaders and in due course die along with those more humble below, though the upper-crusters would cop it, as it were, ensconced in their ivory chairs, their trappings of power. But still, it was something of a gesture of solidarity—Eventually, the Gauls began dying off from 'plague', and at the last minute, one of Rome's heroes who had been in exile, appeared at the gates to save the day. It was Camillus. He saved the day. He gave a speech afterwards along the lines of here's what we might learn from our mistakes, one of which pertained to the Mystery Voice, or that which some citizen claimed to have heard, one night, and that no one took seriously; a voice that had prophesied imminent catastrophe. To expiate the guilt incurred on this account it was Camillus who suggested a shrine be erected to the God of Utterance—Perhaps he had been something of a poet? Larry the software entrepreneur offers to cover my coffee as I have nothing but a twenty on me, a gesture on his part in honour of my being given up to all sorts of mysterious voices, and that he has his own perverse itches to scratch—

Jan 26, 2012: I see I scribbled in my notebook something Labrosse had to say, last night, or that lover's quarrels are non-contextual. It seemed brilliant at the time but it appears I mislaid the context in the course of sleep. I do recall that he and E had been discussing French-English English-French translation, how translating either way would be good for E's studies, and I had suggested it might be a bit like practicing scales on the guitar—So much for a spiffing analogy: suddenly they were on about relationships—We were in between episodes of The Wire (second season), and perhaps McNulty's futile attempts to regain the affections of his estranged wife had prompted something in E. And then, when she earlier popped into the liquor store for some wine, it had come up that a young clerk there was quite familiar with Labrosse but was surprised to hear that he was into the aforementioned TV series. "Oh yes," E happily responded, "and I've introduced him to all sorts of things—" What? Like the tender sentiments of de Sade? Glue sniffing? In any case, back to The Wire, she much enjoyed watching Omar having his day in court. She chuckled: he's not really a sociopath—We wound up agreeing, however, that 'unfulfilled' parents often hold their progeny hostage to their lack. It seemed to be what was bestirring E's intellects deep down - or her mother. Labrosse nodded sagely: the unfulfilled. But then his parents had been happy with one another more or less, and there had been lots of progeny, and they had gone out and gotten things done. For all that, E's live-in swain could wish that the apple of his eye would be more forthcoming when it gets 'upset', you know, be a bitch, if need be—Once upon a time the Greeks used to throw the word 'agon' around to denote 'conflict'. We might translate the word as 'competition', though I believe the Greeks had in mind something other than Jeopardy or market forces or name-dropping or 'March Madness', and even if Plato noted that natural relations between Greeks consisted pretty much of war. What was meant perhaps was all of it, the blood, sweat and tears of every aspect of endeavour, including the honour of something well-done. To which, no doubt, the buddhist has his riposte—It is the thinnest of distinctions that separates honour from empty-headed, breast-beating vainglory and all the cant of militarism and else, of 'full spectrum dominance' in the heat of some moment, but there is a distinction on either side of which both tragedies and comedies have their origins. A, the little wretch, at one point in the proceedings, texting from Vancouver, indicated that she missed us guys. Yes, well, us guys are not to be found just anywhere—

Jan 25, 2012: There is, I suppose, a distance of sorts that separates Geronimo and Current President in a state of State of the Union speechifying. That look of undying hatred on the countenance of the old warrior that one sees in ancient photographs—The 'yes we can' smile of a nation's Number One cheerleader—Perhaps we are talking light-years. Perhaps we are talking so many romps around a theme park that is the American Experience, if not plain old human experience. There is the assumption that all that history, even Iraq, is behind us, so much this and that having passed under a bridge as so much sewage—Almost from the get-go, Current President, in his address, last night, if not uttering a lie, indulged an untruth however politic. But then, if you are Caesar, you must keep the legions thinking cozily of themselves. R E S P E C T - just a little bit—As for justice in an election year? Haditha, you say? Must we? Or that, as London Lunar has put it, if you can let sleeping dogs lie long enough, you can forget that there ever were dogs—No, I cannot say exactly what it was I listened for, but I did not hear it - just some smidgen of something that would attest to the true state of the union, which it is parlous, and which the official opposition - it had to have been a fluke, as all of the official opposition is more or less phobic and off its nut - got more right. In the meantime, I marvelled over P.M. Carpenter's use of the word 'exsanguinated' in a recent commentary of his to do with the political scene to the south of here, he suggesting, I think, that Gingrich is not really to be feared as there is no depth to the well from which he might draw sufficient support for his presidential bid; but that perhaps Mr Carpenter's discovery of 'exsanguinated' briefly went to his head and turned it ever so slightly, who's to say? I continued to reflect on the import of a book like The Gentle Americans, which it is about Bostonians and a certain literary-social set of a certain era, say, from Geronimo's guerilla days to the last days of JFK, an endearing account written by an endearing daughter of an endearing family that seems to be saying there is no such thing as a family tree being utterly free of the taint of slavery and other evils in the U.S. of A., so then lighten up and live a little, you, too, can be endearing and des grâces, sans affectation, and in deep with Lowstoft dessert plates. And I considered, apropos of nothing of the above, why it is that Lampedusa's novel The Leopard is still my most favourite novel to read, and how PC Italian-style nearly scuppered its ever being published; and that the book does nod a little at the notion that 'progress', as it were, consists of a shell and a nut and a hint of razzle-dazzle—It is a notion that leads one to contemplate futility, if no other great truth is ready to hand for a little contemplation by a contraption situated in a case of bone. Considered how a poet like Daryl Hine never has had and never will have even the ghost of a chance of being taken seriously in this particular darling nation-state, as literature and being literary is all about being hip and cool as having been parlayed into the official record by hipsters and coolsters; and I suppose I could draw up of a list of barnstorming personages who used to go about suckering the stuffy types with so-called outrageous behaviour so as to demonstrate that while having neither brain and nor clue, they knew all the time who and what truly mattered and what was at stake; but who, in their increasing dotages, are, in fact, brainless and clueless, as they have been the greater part of what has been stuffy and all-academe for a long while now. Moribund, still-born literature? Is that all? Or might we consider there is some weight to be remarked upon in a comment whose attribution I will keep to myself: that a certain nation-state the world apparently is to continue finding indispensable to its course of progress on a level (ethical - that ethical, eh?) playing field is a 'dead' polity of no use to anyone—

Jan 24, 2012: Nikas, the wretched little place, has failed to open, this morning. One may as well say the sun did not bother to materialize in the east; or that the early church, recognizing that its flock was less than saintly - now that the church had proceeded two or three generations beyond the apostolics and their collective memory of things, decided to cancel observances—In any case, I see that at some point in the course of the past couple of days, I have scribbled in my notebook the following: that every time I decided to get serious about reading The Seven Pillars of Wisdom there was always someone around to talk me out of it. Right-wing mystical dreck. Or so it was said. Oh, and that Robert Graves (the poet, you know) was an awfully bizarre fellow whose path crossed with that of T. E. Lawrence who was going to change his name to Shaw, perhaps indicating by this that G.B.Shaw was his spiritual father who had such a heavy editorial hand in the writing of the famous book—Having finished a biography of Lawrence written by a French man Villars, I am left with a view of the subject as an ascetic much given to romanticism; a colonialist who had nothing but contempt for the means of colonialism such as army officers and diplomats; and that he was morbidly vain, what with his horror of and fascination for his own publicity, and that he was one of the first world-wide celebrities of modern times, the fact of which greatly compromised his 'moral' nature and perhaps added a wrinkle and a twist or three to what was his notion of the 'mytho-poetic'. In other words, it seems that Lawrence said something to the effect of any fool can write history, he intended to write an epic, i.e. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. I have had it said to me that any fool can write a novel, and I proved the truth of the claim by writing one—

Jan 23, 2012: It looks like I came out ahead, yesterday. That I was treated to drinks at Les Voyageurs in the Queen E hotel prior to the reading at the Argo bookshop. Casablanca Rick, my fellow reader, did the treating, and held up his own throughout the course of the evening. (At least we both had sense enough not to sample the notorious martinis.) A couple of books with my name on them managed to sell and I settled a spiritual debt with a young person on the strength of the proceeds, and I chatted up and was chatted up by various other young personages, all of whom, so it seemed to me, had their heads on right, or about as right as can be expected, given the times and place. Perhaps I do not get out often enough, but it struck me as noteworthy. As for Casablanca Rick, my impression is that he is well camouflaged and dug in; and for once, in a conversational exchange, I did not feel I was hollering across some immense chasm on the other side of which was an alien spirit sporting a jersey with a capital P look ma, I'm a Poet, no hands, emblazoned on it. His view of the sort of verse that Seamus Heaney writes is somewhat ironic, which it is about the only view a sentient entity can possibly have. Otherwise, we talked Juvenal—Morning. Nikas. Enter Larry the software entrepreneur - speaking of alien spirits. No, just kidding—

Jan 22, 2012: Nikas, and the radio, this morning, quite defeats me with its amplified flimflam, and I have not got the stomach this time around to brawl with Alexandra the waitress over the decibels. They bespeak such a stunning dearth of imagination: the same song looping over and over again for the last forty years. Alright then, the same handful of tunes—But enough to drive a person into the clutches of EDJ. Extreme Dissonant Jazz. Yet another example of a people who assume the battle is won before they even begin to fight? Headlines suggest that Mitt got Newtered in South Carolina, and it strikes me that Newt's rhetoric may ripen into something that will have to be reckoned with, if there is in the country a deep enough well of 'liberal-haters' for him to tap into, liberals being the last portion of the electorate alive to their own internal contradictions and hypocrisies. In other words, in an atmosphere from which 'truth-telling', as such, has been expunged, the 'best lie' is likely to obtain the best traction even if there is plenty of internal contradiction, lots of hypocrisy to be had in any camp right of centre. It is said that what makes Current President 'intelligent' is that he calmly assumes he has the attention of that part of the electorate that still values 'intelligence', or what is often referred to as the 'adult in the room' (as if we are all of us fatally and permanently ambered in juvenalia). But in any case, fine. No worries then, if that so-called intelligence is not a house of cards, a chimera, a something-something that is entirely beside the point. A cautionary note, however: it is one thing to have command of the 'facts'. (The fact is, the numbers say Newt, as such, has not got a chance of going anywhere beyond a few transitory moments of notoriety.) It is quite another to read the sun-disturbed surface of a pretty pond—Politics is as much one as the other—

Jan 21, 2012: Is there a scientific way to scrounge for stipends at minus 15, Friday night, outside the liquor outlet? For each degree of temperature falling is there a concomitant rise in degrees of sympathy for the one beating his chest so as to keep a blood flow up? (I suppose one plots the peak hours—) And who coughed up in the most heartfelt manner? She in the stilettos very very carefully picking her way across the ice—Here y'are, darlin'—Labrosse and I were in 'bratwurst', last night. We had a good view of the action where we were seated - by the water machine at which there was a steady stream of clientele, the hole in the wall café an enclave of sorts for expats and various and divers. At any rate, the law of gravity seemed to still apply, though it appeared as if it had to think about it, water slow to emanate from its source, thirsty types getting a little panicky. Politics? The economy? Labrosse, cradling his whisky between thumb and forefinger, considered that things are pretty iffy even yet. Been hanging around Sibum too long. Whereas A, the little wretch, she's in Vancouver, Guildford, Surrey, and expects to be painting her new apartment, today. Yahoo territory with boots on—At least it used to be yahoo territory with boots and bells—She loves it, in any case. Perhaps in recent years an invasion force of yuppies softened things up for Labrosse's mock significant Other —I told him I had come across a discussion between a pair of financiers (financiers - can you believe it? -), one of whom was asking the other: when is it too late to flee a place? His interlocutor cited the 30s, Germany, and how one keeps looking for the 'dramatic' moment that will convince you it's time to get out of Dodge; just that such dramatic moments are rare; it is all incremental; it is almost imperceptible the slide from bad to worse—Whence this conversation? Why, in fact, given where it originated and the year? Financiers? A certain Mr R Symes, writing of Rome, will tell you what financiers did to the empire apparently in behalf of the same—I envision myself singing Skip James's Hard Times Killing Floor Blues and then perhaps reciting the odd Sapphic or two or something from the Eclogues—Relax. I only envision it—We flee our homeland; you, Tityrus, cool in shade

Jan 20, 2012: Morning. Nikas. The radio. The weather outside. Sunshine. Minus twelve or thereabouts. Alexandra the waitress is working her gum. Her weighty mood, at least, permits her some laughter ce matin. Her husband must have got off a witticism from where he is, sneaking a cigarette, girding his loins for what the day might bring; that he used to own a share of the place but that he bailed on the glory and has gone in for construction. On other fronts, parenthood has swallowed up Literary Thug #1, and he has slipped beneath those waves and may never be heard from again, though CNQ, which it is a journal bent on Canadian literary themes, did run a fairly testy piece of his in its most recent manifestation, or the 83rd time its head has popped up out of the foxhole—The Moesian is writing a piece on the death of his mother and the state of mind of his father and the poetry of Yeats and Roethke. It has been at least a century since I have heard those two names in conjunction with one another. London Lunar is on about how it is he has never heard of the T.E. Lawrence book I happen to be reading, the thing authored by a certain Villars, and London Lunar has seen them all, he in the business of buying and selling books, including the Seven Pillars of Wisdom which has its champions and detractors. In any case, I have my excuse to perpetrate the odd quote or two from the book in question, whilst I wonder to some extent about myself, seeing as I woke, this morning, with John Fahey's arrangement of I'll See You in My Dreams in my head and how to best effect some bounce in the rhythm pertaining to that mid-point C barre, 5th fret—Getting on with it, war is always blamed on old men. However: For many men (war's) enslavement is also a liberation. It reveals them to others and to themselves in an unsuspected light, and then generally destroys them. Many of the survivors have great difficulty, when peace comes, in reintegrating themselves into a society in which there is neither brutality nor license. (Well, not so much.) // But while it lasts this Kali gives, in the midst of wastage, improvisation, chaos and danger, extraordinary opportunities to young men. She leaves to leaders of twenty the free ordering of sacred things which in time of peace are in the care of old men: the lives of men, the secrets of State. The second lieutenant, because he is around when the colonel is on leave or has 'flu, assumes the responsibilities of an emperorJust thought I'd mention it—Then this: Besides, he had a base soul: "I liked the things underneath me and took my pleasures and adventures downward. There seemed a certainty in degradation, a final safety . . . the force of things, years and an artificial dignity denied it me more and more", but he kept a delicious memory of the days of his youth when he had freely degraded himself, mingling with the canaille and the dregs of Syria and Egypt—And this, in light of Allenby's offensive and war ops everywhere: — Lawrence felt overwhelmingly sad. This crowd, this commotion in a country that was meant for almost religious peace, seemed to him a sacrilege. Something eternal and sacred was being brutally violated and destroyed: "Now the desert was not normal, indeed it was shamefully popular . . . ." It was with a heavy heart that he arrived at Azrak, where he at last found silence and solitudeI put it to you: what else couldn't these words speak for?

Jan 19, 2012: More episodes of The Wire (second season), last evening. Labrosse and I met up with E at Nikas, and from there we walked to her place above the music store, she cheerfully indifferent to the cold and the ice, though she worried for us old'uns. Her paramour was to be found in situ, laptop on lap, and he did sit in with us once the hockey game had run its course, Montreal skunked, his despair equal to the team's disgrace. He had corrected me. I mentioned something about the Canadiens having traded away one of its brighter lights, and he said, oh no, good riddance. The player had not been scoring. The player 'sucked'. Was a windbag. Always running off at the mouth. Such irate chat in respect to hockey—As opposed to something to be confused with the state of our literary culture? The whole team 'sucked', as he put it, though on paper they are much better than their performance has indicated thus far—Labrosse was bemused by the critique. "Oh yes," said E, "it's pretty sad—" Difficult to tell if she were crestfallen or just having us on—Earlier in the evening, MH let it be known to me that she was feeling somewhat more optimistic about 'art' in general. There is evidence that the 20-somethings have a genuine interest in the thing, one not compromised by the 'industry' of it all, perhaps because they are not yet the 40-somethings who worry over whom they might offend should they get mouthy, reviews and grants on the line—The cynic in me, I suppose, is irrepressible—

Jan 18, 2012: After a sleepless night of howling wind - morning. Nikas. Mention of Jamaica on the radio, or that some deejay's sister had had herself a fashionable wedding there. It brings to mind that the Moesian, the other night, was going on about a slave revolt in the island nation (perhaps he was referring to the Baptist War, 1831) but in any case, whichever revolt it was, some British factotum, to set an example, had several thousands of Jamaicans killed—I did not know of this particular event. The Moesian and I were in a bar (the CockandBull), this before the reading at the Argo Bookshop, and we were preparing ourselves for the agony to follow even if we were to be pleasantly surprised. I said something to the effect that one cannot possibly know of all the outrages in particular that were committed in New World regions - even in fairly recent times, though in general one certainly could have, and ought to have, an understanding of the 'colonist' history. He started rattling on about Haiti. At some point in the exposition he stopped, looked around, and asked why it is we are continually surrounded by TV sets, a bank of TV sets on every wall; and, evidently, we were meant to have hockey on the brain—A couple of 'regulars' seemed to be paying us undue attention and I wondered what it was we were doing to rouse their suspicions. What, were we pinko commies? A couple of fops insufficiently workingclass? Ah, the rather comely bar maid and the fact that the Moesian happens to be one of those men whom women, for who knows what reasons, find deadly attractive—The conversation itself had come about courtesy of Patrick O'Brian; that I had finished with the man's twenty volume Aubrey-Maturin series (twenty-one if one counts the unfinished The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey, the beginning of which finds Aubrey off the coast of Chile—); that I have been trying to sort out my thoughts concerning the books and the quality of the prose to be had in them; but that I was not entirely happy with my effort. Then again, I am neither a reviewer of books nor a 'critic' as such, the question in my mind being whether or not I had put myself in a corner and would have to apologize to someone or other for having liked the books, so much so, I would happily read them again. Well, the Moesian had nothing to say on that score, he going on in a vein that might be characterized as literary culture? What literary culture? Oh, you mean that literary culture, that one that produces a sh-tload of books no one cares to read, because, well, who could care about them? It looked like it could be a long evening of it if he was already in a 'mood'. I am due to begin a re-read of Tacitus and Homer, and I have begun a not terribly well-written but nonetheless interesting biography of T.E. Lawrence; how, during his time at the Carchemish dig in Syria with Woolley, he would disappear for days on end in some Syrian outback with his two Arab 'pals', and no one seems to know what he got up to, as he did not tell. It seems the locals saw Lawrence as inept, something of a dreamer, if not crazy; and they decided to protect him, as it were, when they might have as easily slit his throat, for all that their Ottoman overseers did not want dead European tourists on their hands. In any case - poetry. What is the thing? What is it not? Wonderful, perhaps, that one cannot pin it down. Might even write some of it, myself, who's to say? Can see GG (Guitar Guide) tapping his foot—Been lax of late in my 'independent finger exercises'—

Jan 17, 2012: Some poets, gifted with 'perfect pitch', nonetheless manage to write fine poetry, even so. Others,  flawless in their execution of this or that verse form, only achieve so much finely written, forgettable twaddle. Some poets will say that 'poetry' is to be found in the words themselves, and nowhere else. Perhaps. Some poets insist that poetry is what occurs in between the lines of a poem, in the silences. And so forth and so on. Bear with me: I am trying to piece together what went on, last night, after the poetry reading, and we wound up in a bar on Bishop Street, everyone holding forth, and with gusto. In light of which I see that I scribbled something in my notebook to the following effect (words written in the heat of battle, from the trenches, as it were): Again, shall have to ask why it is that what sounds like poetry, smells like poetry, tastes like poetry, looks like poetry, feels like poetry, is not necessarily poetry—And a great many people, well-intentioned dears, doubtless, have an answer for the question; and perhaps they're right, maybe wrong - I've no effing idea. Just that a rare enough event did occur, last evening, at the Argo Bookshop which was the venue for the reading. A young fellow (who afterwards explained that his 'equipoise' was simply due to the after-effects of a bout of flu) - at any rate, this fellow in a state of grace that may never come around for him again, read a lovely little story to do with love and related matters; and he read what he had to say with such unfeigned and straightforward conviction that we all of us who were there were the better for it. One does not get to say this but once in a great long while. However, whether we were still 'the better for it' after we closed down the bar - this I cannot say—Lastly, I am superstitious enough to worry that in making mention of the above, state of grace and all that, I will only have jinxed the man and that 'poetry', in horror, will depart the area—So then, enough said.

Jan 16, 2012: A last word, perhaps, in regards to Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. It has to do with a storm at sea as depicted in what would have been volume the twenty-first had O'Brian lived to finish it; and, as such, the writing goes by the name of The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey. The storm, off a New World coast, blows a great many parrots and tiny 'Tierra del Fuegian' honeysuckers (hummingbirds) into the sails and rigging of the ship, the collision fatal to them; that they were dashed against the rigging or the remaining sails with such force that in spite of their lightness they were quite shattered and as the blast died away, deck, lighter rigging and scuppers were jewelled all over with their pitiful but still brilliant fragments—It is an image that will remain unforgettable with me, at least. I wondered, too, as I read the passage, as to what was going through the author's mind in the writing of it, given that he must have known his days were numbered, his powers on the wane—Was he allowing himself one last rather theatrical metaphor? Otherwise, what can be said for someone's life good, bad or indifferent? That a certain amount of rain fell on it? Snow? That now and then, a bad-natured wind did its worst to a body? That a life ingested this amount of food; that it pissed and excreted that amount of waste?—There I was in an Arctic chill, plying myself along a sidewalk on which snow and ice were packed hard, and the thought struck me: indeed, what can be said for someone's life good, bad or indifferent? The thought insinuated itself, but no, not with the force or moral urgency of an epiphany, but as a bit of mental detritus taking the place of some other bit for a brief spate of time, only that it wanted 'answering'. For instance, is the Woody Allen character in his flick Hannah and Her Sisters just being reprehensibly cute when he suggests that even if life has no meaning, one may as well enjoy it? Here's looking at you, kid—MH considered that it was, on Allen's part, nothing more than 'dated' angst. The world's not all like New York: neurotic, self-indulgent—I figured, for a moment or two, as we viewed one of the flick's Thanksgiving family get-together scenes, that we were, in fact, watching some biblical begat instance, as in X begat Y, one generation having spawned another, the neurotic and the self-indulgent ceding pride of place to out and out narcissists—But I might have been in error—Morning. Nikas. It is clear that the Albanian with the startling eyes, waitressing, has not been able to afford an interlude of when I wake up in the morning, think I'll be an artist—Now Mr Hedges - that would be Chris Hedges of Pulitzer Prize-winning provenance - in any case, it appears the man is going to sue Current President for his ill-considered decision to bring into law what has already become infamous; which it is a provision allowing the military not only 'to carry out domestic policing' but to perform end-runs around the courts while subjecting arrestees to indefinite incarceration, off-shore most likely—Current President can rationalize all he likes that no one will exercise the option in anything like a slipshod manner—Civil liberties, anyone? Well, the Very Same has just signalled his lack of enthusiasm, it being an election year, surprises not wanted, for hostilities against a certain I-entity nation-state on behalf of another I-entity nation-state; a round of maneuvers having just been cancelled or postponed with the latter that has wished to make a splash in a category of who has got what by way of ordnance and celeritous moxie —I return you to the image at the top of the post, those bird-splattered sails, though I have nothing especial in my mind or, as it were, up my sleeve—

Jan 15, 2012: I am less than happy with the previous post as it smacks of a 'review', and reviewese is not to be encouraged in this precinct. Even so, there is much to attract the reader in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, not the least of which is the quality of the prose. Rich in atmosphere, precise, at ease with details (the sailing ship of Napoleonic times was not a simple instrument); able to render up a complex human psychology and keep a narrative moving along, much is said, and yet, the language, for all that, is restrained and always in possession of itself. They used to call it poise, and perhaps they still do. The truth of it is borne out in the last novel, the twentieth, which is one rewrite or two shy of a 'finished' book. In it, the cracks show, the author by then a very old man near his death—Even so, in the end, I find myself asking: how much of the writing is about how people ought to behave, given their circumstances, as opposed to how the historical record claims they did behave? It is not that Mr O'Brian was spewing forth propaganda or maliciously skewing what he knew of the historical record so as to suit his own predilections; and it is not that he shied off pointing out that some of the 'realities' in question, including any number of British vessels under the thumb of this or that brute were perfect little nightmares, indeed; but that he packed his 'heroes' with the best that a flawed humanity can offer short of saintliness, and one wonders if the result is not, at some level, absurdly quixotic, if for less than absurdist reasons. Maturin the Irish-born spy-naturalist-ship's doctor-coca-leaf chewing-bit of a cold fish - he is perhaps an agent, after all, for civilizing forces in the most generous sense, then again—Aubrey the captain thoroughly relishes his captaincy, the battle-craft, as well as mathematics, music, astronomy, the pleasures of table and bed; moves like a force of nature through a world of men in which women very much figure, and yet, they are at some remove, if not always housebound—Is there something in the Napoleonic years that O'Brian preferred to present day times? Is political freedom everything? Are there no other freedoms then in an hierarchical world that compensate for the hierarchy? Do we live in the best of all possible worlds, the corporate state with its shock troops of financiers riffing on the divine right of kings? Sure, you can vote. Vote away to your heart's content—Are we gutless wonders? Don't know - just saying—All that is missing from the books, the Lord's Prayer aside, is the presence of the gods or we should have had, in this twenty volume length epic sweep, an Odyssey inextricably bound up with an Iliad—Extravagant claim, perhaps, but one closer to the rub than you might think—Morning. Nikas. Frigid out there at minus 25 something—George - owner-cook - he is speechless more or less. His meagre English would come to grips with the fact of the cold. His quasi-Mediterranean sensibility has been violated.

Jan 14, 2012: Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, a twenty or so volume novel cycle set in the Napoleonic era and on the high seas for the most part, may or may not be considered a singular achievement, but it is a curious failure of sorts. The novels do not necessarily bespeak a Pollyannaish view of human relations, nor are they necessarily an enthusiast's thumbs up for notions of progress as 'civilization' begins to roll up more and more of the world-getting-to-be-known; and they are not, I suppose, out and out apologies for British imperialism, but they certainly glory in the romance and the 'adventure' of expanding horizons. It is as if the novelist were saying that all one can do with life is live it, warts and all—They revel in the nascent sciences beginning to take systematic stock of the natural world. They exult in the perfect handling of a very complicated instrument - the three-masted sailing ship in peace or war; and they are finally, and perhaps ultimately, a tribute to the notion of amity between human individuals of either sex in all the various permutations of what pairings and groupings humankind may enjoy - despite class or tribal distinctions, as if to say that idealism as such has no other home, can get traction nowhere else but in 'friendship'. It is a very serious declaration for 'human bonds'; a very serious portrait that O'Brian presents of the possibility of love based on something other than Hollywood and hormones; and nowhere does he insult 'love' with overweening, empty-headed, feel-good sentiment in respect to the thing. That is to say there are limits: class, tribe, race, gender, family, and one does not easily transcend these limits, if at all; or that, curiously enough, such limits are more likely to be transcended or put aside in the fray, in the heat of the action, than in the parlour at home. It is also to say that men and women, among other things, are flawed, and flaws do exact their toll and take their prisoners—And cannonballs and disease kill heroes. And sharks eat the virtuous and the less lovely among us alike—O'Brian's champions might say his is a portrait of humankind when it was last living life to the fullest and for the best of reasons - to increase understanding of - of - of what, exactly? - of why one bird's plumage is different from the plumage of another kind of bird and so forth and so on? And yet what is missing from the portrait is the enormous, unquantifiable cost. The 'New World' is very much in the portrait, and if PC outrage is refreshingly absent from the annals of encountering and 'settling' the exotic continents between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, and even if here and there in the writing are harrowing enough sketches of the slave trade, very little, if anything, is said of all that was 'displaced' in the collision between 'worlds', or else I missed something in the writing. These novels, taken in conjunction with the latest declaration from science that the galaxy in which this earth is situated hosts billions upon billions of other earth-like entities, threaten to overwhelm my hitherto unshakable pessimism with something like the winds of change. Rather than life being unique to this earth, unique in the sense of its being a joke in exquisitely bad taste, a jest of the gods or God Himself, life might be pretty routine and not all that much to be remarked upon in the end. We can happily ho-hum the fact of each our existences and knock ourselves out with doing bad poetry—Not that I will suddenly, and some time soon, and because released now from an obligation to 'get the joke' and guffaw accordingly, take to cartwheeling through Montreal-NDG for the sheer joy of living, for the sheer hell of it all, as per some particularly perverse stanza in the oeuvre of Foulard aka a certain Glover Esq.—Otherwise, rich comedy yet again attaches itself to the person of London Lunar there in Londontown, only I am not permitted to treat with 'the latest'. It is regrettable that my hands are tied in this respect as opportunity is lost by which I might could blow myriads of tedious comics out of the water with the material and shatter the odd dour countenance with the odd ghostly grin —

Jan 13, 2012: Labrosse, advising me of his presence in Nikas, last evening, provided me with my excuse to skip out on the rest of the Robert Lepage flick The Far Side of the Moon, one of those tidy little conceptualist reveries on life's meaning or the lack of the same—"Lepage," said Labrosse, "is quite the guy. Multi-faceted." It was praise for a countryman, the effect of it condemnatory. In any case, Nikas was sparsely attended: a handful of middle-aged men, E on shift in unflagging effervescent mode. She seemed to have special intimacy with each isolate fellow, each their loneliness palpable. Otherwise, there was hockey on each their brains, and though the men might have wished it differently, hockey was very likely to stay on the brain, Montreal down 1-zip to Boston, second period. At least, it was snowing out, the fact of which prettily mitigated what has been a fairly dreary winter thus far. Like a fool I sat there, wondering if Lepage knew his Orlando Furioso, mad Orlando who also got to the moon without aid of booster rockets. Labrosse, distinctly uninterested in Iran or euro-finance or the Romney-fication of the collective to the south of here, clapped his eyes to the hockey action lest the world disintegrate should his gaze waver; and that les Canadiens could only contribute one body to the up-coming all-star lollapalooza was depressingly predictable. Later on in the evening, there was the spectacle of a senator-hero ex-presidential nominee on the Letterman show. He tried to put something of a face on what Letterman was attempting to wink and blink into the record, or that American politics, if a hoot, is a debacle, man. McCain, by way of paraphrase: "Well, it's good to get all this out - good for the country - good for the people - but there have been some bad decisions made, no question - it may take an election cycle or two to fix - we're still the greatest experiment the world has ever known - everybody wants to be us—" Cheeks McCain as Claudius Caesar (as per Robert Graves): let all the poisons out. Well, did it work back then? My strategy? Since I am always to be found on the losing side of any argument, I figure that so long as I keep chatting up doom I am, in actual fact, preventing its occurrence. Ought to be recompensed for this service—On the other hand, there is nothing I can do about organic croissants and spoken word poetry or any other characterization of an object or a happening by way of the redundancies piling on. And on. And on—

Jan 12, 2012: A minor instance of synchronicity: or that, while having Orpheus on the brain, a Latin tag I came across in the book The Gentle Americans - the tag being 'Meum est propositum in Taberna mori' and being very loosely translated as my chief aim in life is to croak in a tavern' - led me to the so-called 'Archpoet', an anonymous poet-crittur of the twelfth century, some of whose lines are in the Carmina Burana. This, in itself, led me to John Fahey and his guitar composition What The Sun Said which appears in his album Dance of Death & Other Plantation Favorites (1964, the recording of which was apparently carried out in a haze of marijuana smoke, lots of whisky on hand). For all that, the music entranced me, literally, when I was in my early 20s, and now, all these years later, and I am on the verge of learning how to play some of the material, no matter that I am under an injunction from GG (Guitar Guide) not to do anything on the guitar that is not directly connected to the lessons which he is providing me. And right he is, if the thing is to be done at all properly, just that I am nonetheless ignoring the man on this score. Otherwise, last evening, we concluded our viewing of The Wire, season the first, and started in on the second, we being E and her swain and Labrosse and myself, E and swain doing the honours as far as hosting goes. Labrosse admitted that the series has all of his attention now that we are 'into it'.Well, one does not easily forget such characters as Bunc and Omar and Bubbles—A mystery to us as to why the production did not seem to catch on with the masses though the critics gave it their thumbs up. Not cheesy enough as per the more mainstream cop shows? Too unwieldy a business for the jiggly jello cubes that encase most of our getting about from A to B? London Lunar is still cracking up over a certain thin, neurotic Dane. (Previous post.) Kydde, as well he might, is reconsidering his options in respect to anything that has to do with London Lunar. Morning. Nikas. There is weather developing out there in the form of wind and snow. I intimated at the top of this post that I am reading The Gentle Americans. I am reading it on sufferance. I have always been leery of sentiment. Life, however, is not livable without some sentiment. The author of the book is quite fond of her 'people' and her 'period', but she is perilously close in her writing to having the reader view their behaviour as 'cute', let alone 'quaint'; and if none of them, including Henry James the great novelist, had anything resembling a cynical bone in their bodies ever, I, feckless cynic, a third of the way through the book, am no closer to understanding why.

Jan 11, 2012: It is not clear to me how he managed to do it, but it would seem that, last evening, London Lunar disgraced himself in respect to the poetry scene in his neck of the woods. The odds are, he mouthed off at an inappropriate moment. But perhaps it was more theatrical than that, and he chucked an egg at someone's insufferable eminence. Perhaps he committed an outrage often associated with those who swear by Thelemite views in polite company—No doubt, Captain Kydde is reconsidering ever stepping out into a brave new world in the man's company again. In any case, I have always suspected London Lunar of being a barbarian at heart—They intended, Lunar and Kydde, to take in Stephen Watts's recital of his poem Praise Song for North Uist, one of the great poems of the time. So then, who knows what set London Lunar off? Was it the 'thin, neurotic Dane' singing let the Roma into your lives with what was, so it was implied, a very affected falsetto? It would be hard to endure if, 1): one has genuine regard for gypsies who, of late, have been treated badly by the authorities of various euro states and so, 2): one just might consider that bad protest music only insults the people it is meant to benefit while making the most of a showcase for a protestor's shoddy ego—Yesterday, while marking a bit of time before I was slated to appear for my next guitar lesson, I scribbled the following in a notebook: Somewhere I have been going on about the poetry of life. Silly me. Even so, here I am, waiting for GG (Guitar Guide) to indulge me with a lesson in the art of guitar. It is the corner of St-Louis and Saint-Denis. The venue is a hot dog place of gaudy yellows and greens painful to one's retinas, a reminder of one's U-District days (Seattle) that were all Nietzsche and druggies and scruffy poets and campus cops. For all that, no eatery in that vicinity ever offered up poutine to a discriminating clientele. Enroute, and I was barely out my door in Montreal-NDG, and I encountered a mad woman who had commandeered a phone booth and was busy screaming invective and bile into the receiver of a phone at the other end of which was either a real interlocutor or someone only perceived as real—Why make note of her? Why not make note of her? Because she is always commandeering phone booths and releasing bile. Always and always. Are we so attached to quantum physics or nano-technology that human detritus has slid off our radars? The world's worst painting (it just happens to be in the abstract-expressionist mode and seems to avail itself of the colours of what was and perhaps still is the West German flag) is attached to the outside wall of the nearby Café Cherrier—Old city architecture - cupolas, spires—I have been reading up on Chopin's Twenty-four Preludes, one of which is called Uncertainty and another The Night Moth - ???—In the meantime, P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, is anticipating Current President's electoral landslide come this November. He can barely restrain his hooting. My pessimism tells me that while there might be more satisfyingly melodramatic punch with a Republican victory coinciding with a further deepening of the malaise afflicting the country, history's uncanny sense of irony, let alone its complicated nature, suggests that the 'better man', be he in actual fact better or not, generally gets stuck wearing the villain's hat—Ah, here's the skinny in regards to the aforementioned poetry recital: 'Lunar and I went to a reading last evening at the Sugar Cafe (a Turkish joint in Finsbury Park), mainly to hear Stephen Watts read. Unfortunately, there were events before Stephen, particularly a Danish fellow who refuses to use a name. When I met him and asked his name, he said, 'I don't have a name' then added, 'but call me Jan.' This guy read some very long prose piece about his own funeral in 2011 (fictional, alas) but then treated us to some of his songs, accompanying himself on the guitar. It was a terrible bout of caterwauling, as though Dylan had taken up yodeling; and the themes of the songs were pretty pathetic. When he went crooning on with "Let the Roma into your lives," Lunar started to giggle and of course, that spread to me. At one point he hit a high falsetto note and Lunar giggled so hard he had a nosebleed. We couldn't control ourselves; even the table was shaking. The woman next to me started giggling too. So there was Lunar stanching his bloody nose with a dirty napkin while giggling uncontrollably. The Dane's next song was called 'Hate' and every time he landed on the word 'hate,' he focussed his beady eyes on the two of us. Speaking only for myself, I'm doing my best to keep the Roma out of my life: they pinch everything that isn't nailed down'—

Jan 10, 2012: I do not recall offhand anyone running around the late Roman empire crying out that the wheels were falling off— I do seem to recall that the august Augustine, no cretin, was surprised and thoroughly shaken by Alaric's sack of Rome, 410 A.D., a sack which, as sacks go, was fairly gentle. Even so, Augustine's City of God was the product of the vertigo brought about by the rupture with 'continuity'. Now we have got Chris Hedges the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist coming it like a biblical prophet in print and talk show: the American empire has a piper to pay, and it is going to be ugly. I do not say he is wrong - far from it, but it remains a mug's game to predict the future, even the near future, and who is there to say he is not a mug? A vast echo chamber - a 24/7 news cycle, and what do we know but massaged turbulence and other distortions? Perhaps because Mr Hedges has made of the word 'liberal' such an item of opprobrium and done so without my help renders me a little chuffed—Mr Hedges has it that it used to be the job of liberals to help secure the 'centre' - as when FDR saved capitalism from itself; that it was up to the liberals to now and then exercise a little 'conscience' when it came to redressing this or that injustice; but that heaven knows how it is liberals have gone over to lifestyle and limos and fancy drugs and bad poetry while all the great-heart conservatives have been purged from the equation by pseudo-conservatives, the wing-nuts - and - basta. Enough. It is a commonplace to say that age brings about in people a more conservative outlook on life. No doubt. But perhaps one might say that the aging process, in some instances, brings about the conviction of experience, the triumph of cause and effect over 'could be' or 'might have been' and 'but for'—Wordsworth has never been anywhere near a favourite poet of mine, but I have always thought it unfair that he was stigmatized as a turncoat in light of the liberal sympathies of his youth, as when, for a moment or two, he perceived the French Revolution as an event that might break for the good. The American empire may or may not fall, but there is no question that it is on its way to becoming something unrecognizable to one such as myself born in the late 1940s and raised on notions, however fantastical they may seem now, of republicanism and the Marshall Plan. Reality is either pushing back with a vengeance or reality is morphing into a crittur that has yet to hit upon what to call itself, but that is, generally, to be signified as 'reality'. (Mr Hedges' mentor apparently calls it 'inverted totalitarianism'. There it is - more tortured terminology. However, you will get no argument from me when it comes to the one per centers and the greatest, most swashbucklingest privateering history has ever seen—) What exercises the pit in my stomach is the sense that fewer and fewer people, as the days go by, seem to have any capacity to stand back, take a breath, and have a considered look at things; in other words madness has its fans and cultists and adherents of all stripes political and otherwise, and the club just keeps expanding its membership base - from top to bottom—In any case, it was not my intention to get on a pale horse and ride it, ce matin. Morning. Nikas. Larry the software entrepreneur. Yes, that's it - he was the one leading a horse to water out on the street before we entered the restaurant—He telling me how he put himself through school as a doorman at some major hotel. How it seems he misses it. As if it were the last time anything was 'real', and even if we don't know who's on first—

Jan 9, 2012: Labrosse: "There isn't an American movie that is not a true story—" E: "Or that isn't, hmmmm, inspired by true events. Coffee? More wine?—" It would seem that in E's somewhat bohemian living room, life and furniture a celebration of the makeshift, E and Labrosse were having at slapdash irony. We were gathered there for an afternoon's marathon viewing of The Wire, season the first. No critique of the production is to be implied by the dialogue above. The horror came later when, returned to my digs, some movie I was idly watching, that was in itself a rather harrowing view of 'human relations', and men and women have not much reason to trust one another, then suggested that not all 'animal shows' are legit; that there are fake predator-victim scenes as when living sacrificial meat is, in fact, thrown to the lions and it is all duly captured on camera; and by way of clever editing, the result is made to appear seamless and to have happened in 'nature'—As ever, I am the last person to hear of it. All this in light of the fact that I recently caught a 'show' featuring crocodiles. What charming creatures they are that have such tender sexual relations. But there they were at their most charming, taking down wildebeests in the attempt of the latter to ford a river as part of their annual migration; but that, such wildebeests as thought twice about the crossing, in turning around and clambering back up the river bank, were then greeted by lions in an ambush. Easy, easy, ridiculously easy kill—Grisly. And all the rest of it. What's so effing noble about nature? And if anything in the 'spectacle' was a result of fakery, I should think the perpetrators ought to be strung up by the tenderest of their parts for both their cynicism and cruelty—Now E insisted that Bubbles (a junkie in The Wire) is not Bubbles so much as he is an actor playing a part. I have always believed otherwise. Then London Lunar goes and tells me that E is in the right of it; which only leads me to suggest that whoever that actor is, he is one of the best of our times, his performance, as it were, 'seamless'; whereas with the likes of a DeNiro, all one gets are the stitches—London Lunar is also on about eugenics and assisted suicide, how the one is perhaps the logical outcome of the other. I have nothing to say on the matter - at least, not yet. Morning. Nikas. Hateful music on the radio. That is to say, besides being shallow and not much more than your basic market forces at work, it is relentlessly vile. Snow falls in Montreal-NDG. I will not go so far as to say that we are busily destroying all the poetry there is in life. Oh? And what's that - the poetry of life? But I will go so far as to say we are busily obliterating all traces of the poetry that there was in life. Talk too much about this sort of poetry and one frightens the very item off. It's skittish stuff—

Jan 8, 2012: Yesterday, at the Atwater Library, the little library that perhaps can, I bought for a nominal price some books that had been removed from circulation, one of which is entitled The Gentle Americans - the 'biography of a breed'—The book purports to be a look-see at one hundred years of Boston literati such as include, among others, Whitehead, Frankfurter, Frost, Brooks, Marquand, all centred around the figure of Mark Howe - exemplar of a 'breed' gone extinct, unrepentant liberal and, if you please, Christian gentleman, or the author's father—At first blush it is an extended puff piece on a certain family and its idiosyncrasies, an homage to 'father knows best'; and so forth and so on; and then a curious admission that slavery and rum had a lot to do with how 'family' directly or indirectly got its shekels. An awkward admission, one that produces an image of a woman pinching her nose whilst holding up at arm's length between thumb and forefinger some offending item of garb in need of disinfectant, if not outright disposal. I have not yet read far enough into the book to ascertain whether the persons of which the author speaks were, indeed, any more or less 'gentle' than recent generations of any other dynasty in America; and whether the author has anything to say beyond her effusions; whether there has been the passing away of something deserving of lamentation. In any case, in the course of a rather apocalyptic metro ride to the library, MH, in respect to Dog Day Afternoon, suggested an alternate view to the one presented in the previous post, she saying that the Al Pacino character, for one sweet afternoon, got himself in control of things, and he happily decided cases for everyone concerned; until, of course, at the airport, the getaway plane in view, it all blows up in his face as soon as the 'authorities' take out his partner with a bullet to the head. Then his hostages, all of whom had regarded him with some sympathy and even incipient affection, drop him like something not only to be shunned, but as if he had never existed in the first instance. Silly bank robber. What a loser. Even the street people who had taken to singing his praises as a hero were chucking garbage at him as he sat in the limo with his hostages and partner and driver, about to head for that getaway plane, dirty tricks imminent—"Otherwise," said MH, "there's reading Camus (she has given up on Orwell, it being depressively wintry out) and there's considering the Stoics for what they have to say about fate— " At the outset of the return trip, down in the metro station, we came across a violinist having at some intensely familiar but unnamable classical piece. His sawing away was briefly interrupted by a young woman wearing a stetson who wished to know if he was Russian. He answered that, no he himself was no Russian but that his teacher had been. As soon as he had opened his mouth to speak, the man's voice indicated that a tale of mental troubles, booze and drugs was pretty much his life, but that he still regarded himself as an 'artist'; and, what the heck, I was disposed to believe him and so, I contributed to his coffers. Perhaps MH thought I had gone soft in the head. It was, at any rate, a painful scene, which only got more painful when the train arrived and everyone but the violinist got on, the woman who had struck up a conversation with him now looking a little lost, as if she now had no one to pity, or so my own less than cheery way of looking at it persuaded me. Evidently, the winter blahs have set in—

Jan 7, 2012: —Something about oil, the tar sands, keeping the Canadians 'onside', tensions rising out there—The words were Labrosse's, Friday night in Nikas, business slow, hockey on TV, Labrosse bored. Europe on the brink? What brink? What's this brink you're always on about? Oh, that brink. Well, they do keep slipping, slipping—Things keep slipping - you know—And then E, all dressed up with nowhere to go - that is to say, she on shift was primed to work and there was no work to be done and few tips to be had; and here she was reduced to asking me for the third time if I should like my water glass topped up and was I in the loop when it comes to Mayan prognostications? And here was the other waitress, the petite one, chirping something about being on the barricades, only that the revolution was cancelled because everyone got sick of their own and each other's company—I began muttering things about the next war looming, the euro, and John Milton (the esteemed poet) for no reason at all - but yes, was he not addicted to the hoopla surrounding the political passions of his day - or not? - and much of what I read in the blogosphere so as to keep 'abreast' - good golly, Miss Molly, keeping abreast, what a concept - is wearisome, as it is cant rather than thoughtfulness; as it is spew rather than writing; and I am equally as suspect, to be sure. But not P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here: he has been fairly humming of late: —or that Donald Trump has returned to running Gary Busey's steakhouse; Michele Bachmann is safely hibernating in some hyperborean rubber room; Herman Cain has been reduced to a YouTube phenom; and Sarah Palin isn't again a conservatively humiliating threat until next month's CPAC coven—And here, Mr Carpenter is only indulging a bit of playfulness - we have not yet obtained the true tenor of august political thinking, which it is a yelp - and then another—Complicating the idyll alluded to in the post previous to this (that idyll to be had in Patrick O'Brian's Blue at the Mizzen, the scene West Africa in Napoleonic times) is the fact that the woman in question who had permitted herself to be bussed at the edge of the swamp, having just received a proposal of marriage from him who bussed her - her fellow naturalist and admirer - and having been soured on marriage by a shoddy excuse of a husband who gave her a bad dose of 'disinclined to ever want to marry again', turns down her suitor, though not outrightly so, thereby keeping him on the hook; and there just might be a change of heart in the offing; that something like tender man-woman relations were not inconceivable, so much so, they might continue calling one another 'dear'. Or else they were just being, you know, Brits. I took my leave of Nikas, went and watched Dog Day Afternoon with MH, and though Al Pacino's character would be the first person to admit that what he was doing - robbing a bank - was entirely screwy and not the best course of action to be taking, given where he was in life, nonetheless, increasingly perceives just how much screwier the supposedly sane people are, including his wife and his mother and 'management', and how much more dangerous; and when the strong arm of the law finally take out his partner with a bullet to the head, his loneliness, the worst kind of loneliness - which is isolation in tandem with utter clarity of perception and thought - is complete and forever. He weeps now. But who wouldn't weep? Worrisome to me was the dream I had, last night, in which the opening chords of a John Fahey tune were not so much 'blues' as the beginnings of a liturgical mass; and they were meant to be strummed, not picked; only that I found myself obsessed with affecting the exactly right intonation of each chord; that to fail in this was to sell the sacramental short—

Jan 6, 2012: London Lunar is up in arms against the University of Chicago, that source of wonderful economic theory as well as the notion that the human body, in its guise as assorted molecules, is nothing more than a sh-t-making machine, one feculator among other orders of feculators, and so much for Bach and Classical Gas. Alright then, fine: the natural order is one vast vat of sewage occasionally illuminated by the light of the moon and other celestial objects. But that perhaps the mental giants such as get their succor and tenure under the auspices of the aforementioned campus ought perhaps to try and live a life of chronic pain, one in which one is always 'negotiating' with one's mind so as to scrape by minute to minute, who cares what churns in the bowels—And that, well, chicken-livered poets are more likely to get in line behind the scientists (the latest New World Order wanting its kow-tow) than the Neanderthal knuckling his bowling ball down at Penny Lane's—Myself, I cannot quite divest my assorted molecules of the imprint Labrosse's molecules made upon them as, the other night, we gathered to view another episode of The Wire, and there he was, his arms folded defiantly across his chest: he does not figure he is watching anything that merits special commentary. Business is business is business is business no matter the patois in which it is conducted—Whereas E, each time Bunc had recourse to an utterance consisting of the word pussy, could not help the energetic and restless waggling of a pale foot, let alone the attendant heart-felt giggles erupting from her throat. I do not know - I do not know what the answer is, but whilst we are indefatigably engaged in the manufacturing of excrement, it would seem we are not entirely impervious to the possibility of pleasure. One thing that may or may not signify in the natural order: E is a young woman who does seem terrified of an empty dance card, the fact of which almost renders her endearing—Then Conservative Colonel, over at Sic Semper Tyrannis, observed that if there is to be a successful third party in American politics, it will likely come through Ron Paul's bid to become president. Mr Paul is attracting a great many disparate sorts to his cause mostly on account of his anti-war stance, for all that he is crackers on other matters; and for all that American politics is more fractured than it has been in a long while—I have come across an idyll. It is to be found in Blue at The Mizzen, the last complete volume of the Aubrey-Maturin series, twenty-some naval novels set in the Napoleonic era. (Patrick O'Brian). It has to do with a cranky leopard and an enormous bird of a heron kind, blueish on top, chestnut below, with immense green legs and a deep, furious baying cry; with a man and woman who, despite the prevalence of leech and fly bites on their bodies, opting to remove their clothes so as to dry them on rocks in the hot sun, find time from their loving investigation of the natural world to exchange a kiss or two, the leopard they have been seeking out fondly depicted by the woman as being as touchy as a Roman emperor— My guitar guide, GG, seems to want me back for another devastation. Will we talk Chopin and Symbolist poets while my picking hand receives its obliteration? My Vale Perkins correspondent got herself invited to a private harpsichord recital at the hands of a Madame Legacé out there in the boonies in the mapled hills; was treated to Bach and Scarlatti, and to salmon, mussels, hummus and exotic liquor. More grist for the mill that we are as feculators, say what?—Lack of experience diminishes our power of taking a comprehensive view of the admitted facts. Hence those who dwell in intimate association with nature and its phenomena grow more and more able to formulate, as the foundations of their theories, principles such as admit of a wide and coherent development: while those whom devotion to abstract discussions has rendered unobservant of the facts are too ready to dogmatize on the basis of a few observations—Aristotle. Well, everyone is going to claim the factual as their purview, and the chips are always going to fall where they may, no pun necessarily meant, even as the shit will fly—

Jan 5, 2012: It is official now: science (the University of Chicago?) has pronounced free will an illusion, perhaps an invitation to all that is delusionary; and while I have always figured as much, as did some ancients in their day without aid of fancy laboratories, what alarms me in the pronouncement is not so much the declaration itself, but what shall be made of it so as to justify and defend this or that imminent man-created horror impossible to stave off. It is believed, for instance, that henceforth we shall have greater empathy for one another now that it is understood you are and I am nothing more than an assortment of molecules, our behaviour and our very memories nothing more than how it is those molecules have been arranged; and that we cannot help but do what we do and remember what we remember, given the 'arrangement'. Everyone, how convenient, is a victim, then. Everyone was born as such and will die as such, and we might as well continue to put flowers on Stalin's grave, and Mao's and Hitler's - there is one out there somewhere, and chuck a few nosegays Franco's way—Empathy - the next lifestyle buzz word? This assortment of molecules, as opposed to that sort of molecules, will write this sort of verse as opposed to that sort of verse; will butter toast thusly as opposed to thatly; will prefer Hank Williams to Bach; will get voted into the White House or into the loony bin; or, if an assortment of molecules is sufficiently off-colour, will find itself in a prison cell looking at centre-folds. And whether one is a genius or an ignoramus all the while is beside the point—All the while that thugs and swaggering narcissists carry the day, as they have been doing for some time now with the gloves off and without shame; an item such as 'empathy' unlikely to hinder them much or in any way compromise their integrity; if, by integrity, we mean structural integrity or efficiency of motion in a drive toward full spectrum dominance and profit maximization—And you are going to tell me that, no, you are not really into any of that? Think again. Contrariwise, London Lunar points out that if The Iliad is the planned universe, as in, a world plotted out by the gods or plutocrats or all the Dr Suzukis, a 'determined' universe, then surely The Odyssey is the break-out position, a kind of breaking out that some early Christians used to see in the figure of Christ over and against the pagan cycle of birth-life-death over and over and over and over again ad nauseam. The truth of it fairly screams itself in an infinite silence: it is a grimly determined universe as opposed to a happily determined nest (Ithaka, bloody Ithaka) in which we find ourselves and our nearest celestial neighbours, though anything might happen, even happy interludes, and Irish Harpy, grim and dour Irish Harpy of six decades and counting, might girlishly dance a jig on a table of a morning in Nikas—Which brings me, somehow, to the Iowa caucus and the Romney-Santorum stand-off (for the time being, until New Hampshire is over done and with) that was its consequence. It does increasingly look like Current President will get his re-election, only that I contend he will regret it, seeing as the only people who love him nowadays are bankers, and they are likely to love him less the deeper we get into the man's second term—London Lunar swears by the current Anselm Kiefer exhibition in Londontown. Post-apocalyptic and all that. Mad Max as the last of the Knights Templar? And in light of what heralded this post by way of the delusionary, I have been having at e e f g g f e d/c c d e e d D, and a one -ah, two-ah, uh-three-uh and so forth and so on, notes that configure an entree into Ode to Joy; have been striking those notes with a flat pick, going insane with the pecking at it; but that it is what I must do on account of the fact I am an assortment of molecules what has an assortment of molecules to please, or GG, the Guitar Guide—

Jan 4, 2012: My evisceration complete at the hands of the rather Virgilian Guitar Guide - to be henceforth designated as GG - I was, nonetheless, permitted a few vital signs with which to carry out the rest of my business in what remained of the day. Something of a cross between Conan the Barbarian and a very fastidious Segovia, never mind a wise-cracking Virgil in Dante's melancholic underworld, GG appeared to reside amidst bachelor clutter; was, for all that, serene; was blissfully absent-minded. Indeed, he had forgotten the fact of my person - that it took up time and space, which contributed to his look of thorough-going skepticism when I appeared at his door looking for direction in life's wilderness. And then, and in not so many words, and after he observed me 'work' the guitar, my fingers all claw and clothesline pin, he announced I was from now to regard the instrument as an alien object. Whether or not I wished to regard myself as alien and hailing from somewhere beyond known limits, the guitar previously unknown to me, was optional. Never mind that I have messed around on the thing for forty years—It could be fairly said I have not played all, given that I have had no proper idea of how to approach the essential requirements of guitar-playing. At the conclusion of which observation or what was the lesson, he perhaps smiled as if to say, "Congrats. You are now in receipt, your devastated ego beside the point, of the first six notes of the C-Major scale, and the beginnings, the very preliminary beginnings of the ability to sight-read music." Man, but the man was pleased with himself, serene - as I have said - and on the side of those angels who wish to reform how it is guitar-playing is generally taught; that is to say he himself would ignore my howls of pain, my eyes glassing over; he would pile on. At which point I sorely required a drink. I did manage to escape his clutches, his gravity field, as it were, and took myself to a downtown hotel where I met up with Tupelo and his wife in town from the UK, and in something of a state of shock in regards to the deep freeze out of doors. And along with RS, a poet of some distinction in these parts, some of whose verses have been heard broadcast on American radio, we headed for the hotel bar and emptied the contents of an entire wine cow that seemed to have been kept in reserve for such ordeals as I had just undergone. We then spoke of other ordeals, other massacres, or CanLit; and we spoke on this subject for an obscene amount of time; and then, minus RS who had, no doubt, more sensible things with which to occupy herself than a continuation of the conversation, we hoofed it very briskly for twenty too many blocks or so to a restaurant that is becoming one of my favourite restaurants anywhere in the world, the Avesta. Turkish chow—The Moesian joined us there, the place his discovery. Literature now on a more worldly scale: Cavafy. Pessoa. The fact of what appears to be Daryl Hines in not such good health. The famous 'short street' of Michael Schmidt and that he has gotten a lot of mileage out of this 'short street' or his depiction of the literary worth of a certain nation-state—I managed to play the boor and bore Tupelo's wife beyond any capacity to shed tears in respect to her boredom, what with my mention of this notable or not so notable; then again I had thought it necessary so as to drive the fact home that the game of literature is finished; that all that remains of literature is the game, and no one really cares, anyway. But then, this saying so risks becoming a rant, and we do not rant here—But of course: I have neglected to point out that now and then, and even now, something or other will see print that is truly deserving, London Lunar about to declare that the recent small press release of a novel entitled Stone Upon Stone to be one of the finest novels published anywhere in the last fifty years. And yet, in view of the rot and the corruption and the pettiness, what does one do, should one consider oneself an honourable litterateur? To which the Moesian had a word or two to spare, he, as ever, both deadly and peculiarly affable - a born hit man. True enough, in respect to Tupelo, I was being perfectly ludicrous: he had had already his baptism of fire, and what an immersion into the holy waters or the holy fires it was, he a party to what was to have been innocuous enough but turned out to be a rather controversial anthology of verse in the end, verse of a certain nation-state; but this is talking 'business' and we do not discuss 'business' at the dinner table—Accordingly, Mrs Tupelo raised the white flag and a cease and desist order was now understood to be in effect; and we all of us took our leave of the pleasant ambience down there on icy St Catherine's. It was cold enough that I was beginning to hallucinate Ahkmatova in bright leggings headed for a St Petersburg cabaret, verses firing in the back of her brain—After walking a short while with the Moesian who seemed dangerously thoughtful, I hailed a cab and went home to salvage what was left for me to salvage of my self-regard. So many complicated and emotionally rich worlds once at my fingertips now in shambles, if not outright ruin. Desperate Man Blues. By the Banks of the Owichita. On the Sunny Side of the Ocean. And much more. Smouldering cinders. Such humiliation at this stage of my life is perhaps a great and wondrous event. Music is perhaps a much truer and more noble world than the world of - you fill in the blank. GG is perhaps a great teacher of the guitar. So I tell myself. As if I have any other choice but this to tell myself—

Jan 3, 2012: No, I really I do not wish to impugn the liberal conscience anymore than I already have in these posts, as, excepting my pay grade which is nominal at best, and despite my distrust of academe all mandarin and noblesse oblige and Booker Prize sappy, I am - how shall I put it? - reluctantly liberal. That is to say, I would not ordinarily think twice about it nor detect in my person any need to apologize for the fact, just that the times, those ubiquitous times, have long since caught out the contradictions inherent in the liberal attitude, and those contradictions have ground the attitude to an unpalatable pulp; and because there is no longer any such animal as a 'true' conservative as defined in 'classic terms' in the game of electoral politics, and because the rest of the field of right of centre is inhabited by zealots and idiots, there is nowhere for an old long in the tooth liberal to hang his or her hat with honour, not even amidst commies with a fetish for calligraphy. You see it being played out in bad flicks (some of them Canadian bad flicks - as in execrable flicks) in which the liberal conscience, as defined by screen treatments so transparently catering to 'life-style' and its attendant dilemmas, becomes in itself a mind-numbing manual in how to deal with loss and other unpleasantness through better living in better quality time with yoga. Otherwise, I am once again late to arrive at the party: it seems the music of John Fahey, the man no longer with us, is enjoying a resurgence - if there ever was a 'surgence'; and the next thing you know, Mr Fahey will have been ascribed a virgin birth even if he is to be denied the full splendour of a resurrection. Now and then, in a nonsensical mood, and I have plenty of those in which to fall, I consider that if one of Dostoyevski's more mystically inclined characters had been acquainted with baseball caps and chewing gum and station wagons and girls in penny loafers and cheap California wine, and was given to plucking a little on the mandolin or, indeed, having at the guitar, the result might have been Dance of the Inhabitants of the Invisible City of Bladensburg or Dry Bones in The ValleyGive Me Cornbread When I'm Hungry? Thing is, if my memory of having read one of Gorky's autobiographical opuses holds together as a recollection, and I have not imagined that I read the book (the title of which escapes me, and it is one of the great books); and he did wander about Russia, after all, with his monicker that means 'bitter'; and was intimate with weirdness incarnate and all sorts of strange folk while in possession of his caustic world-view, my nonsensicality is not so improbable—

Jan 2, 2012: Morning. Nikas. Perhaps we are back to normal, the holidays a matter of record. The Albanian with the startling eyes seems to think so, headed my way with a cup of coffee in hand, she on shift. For all that she is occupied with the particulars of the job, the better part of her brain is elsewhere problem-solving, she one of those women who are consummate nesters, the source of a regimen to which all persons must acknowledge fealty, if they have any sense in their heads—Against my better judgment, I have already elected to 'post' for another year, at the end of which I will see how posting sits with me. I am, as ever, wanting monastic seclusion from the world and its inanities and petty preoccupations, all the while I am much too curious for my own good, wishing to know what boots it - in Rawalpindi, say, or Poughkeepsie or Prince Rupert. Montreal-NDG? I seem to recall glimpsing a similar sort of conflict in verses that John Keats wrote, his fallback position, his refuge the natural world and its beauties; just that, when it comes to the natural world and its beauties I am closer in sensibility to a Leopardi for whom the natural world was a volcano, one as capricious as the human world. It was not necessarily benign, at least not in the short term—What, am I coming it the literary critic? Let us keep to the gossip, shall we? And, shall London Lunar, when he is on the blower to a certain poet, sirrah the fellow now that the fellow is knighted? Although he did not say so in so many words, Kydde recently intimated to me that Havel's Prague funeral got to him as much as the funeral of JFK did a long time ago. And although I cannot credit the latter funeral for having made of me a poet - for better or worse, it had a great deal to do with the sort of poetry I would come to write after a lot of years of mucking about and false starts and dead endings. In light of which there is a price to pay for the 'worldly' existence; and perhaps, before this year now underway has run its course, I will have ripped the radio's speaker from the wall of this restaurant and impaled it with its gibbering deejays on a spike. Perhaps I will have carried a point with management who are, otherwise, good guys. Note: In coming days, I may switch to posting in the afternoon, thereby committing my mornings to such follies as the making of poetry entails—



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