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Ephemeris  March 2012

 

March 31, 2012: The notebook is blank. Perhaps wit has, at last, failed, used up its nine lives, and concluded that crime neither pays nor is energy efficient. I always knew it could come to this, especially in these parts where the lack of true generosity in most any endeavour you might care to name (but I am thinking literature for the most part) has been stunning. The I'll scratch your back if you'll rub my more sensitive parts just that we'll pretend we're not, in fact, groping sort of generosity is only the price and de rigor of doing business; it bears no relationship whatsoever to how, what and why one writes or would ever want to. Easy enough to look down one's nose, for instance, at some Dirty Harry cliché of representing the law, and yet, Dirty Harrys of all genders are a dime a dozen in literary communities everywhere representing the lit-game, and have been for a rather long era. They have a certain glint in the eye that tips one off that a certain kind of virtue is in the house looking for its punk. The nicest people purling out: make my day. It is not even that a sense of humour is wanting on their part; it is that their humour rates negative numbers on the chuckles-indicator—Morning. Nikas. Well then, so it is - morning. Nikas. And I have already wasted precious breath on the above. For all that, it just keeps occurring to me that I can count on the fingers of my hook the number of poets I have met in forty some years who, since birth (as the quality cannot be taught except through the agencies of bitter experience) have even a remote understanding of the intrinsic absurdity of ever wishing to gad about the world as a poet. Or that this fair nation-state would breed saints, not poets. Why not Peter Pans then and more Tinkerbells? It breeds its inevitable quota of drunks for whom I have infinite sympathy. They cringe and have always cringed in the shadows away from the sacred glare of the hothouse holiness of which I speak. I have been proud enough to have known quite a few of them, maritimers, east coasters, west-coasters. The prairies? The prairies are a perpetual mystery to me. Indeed, it has been put to me by a well-camouflaged lush or two that there is a case to be made for the ritual disembowellment of certain egregiously bad bad actors, but that there are never adequate enough tools on hand for the job, let alone reliable rubber gloves. Besides, one's own sense of humour could well be considered suspect, should one contemplate accomplishing a little justice. Damned if one does, damned if one doesn't. But enough. Seems an in-law of Alexandra the waitress has rowed over from Greece in his rubber dinghy. Annual visit. The long faces just now. The economic situation in the motherland? Me? Seeing as a Certain Publisher of my acquaintance had himself an evening, recently, of red wine and Patsy Cline, and that it was remarked that it was a shame Sibum set aside his guitar for so long so as to better pursue some other quixotic quest, I ought to return the compliment. Why not commit myself to learning Cline's oeuvre? Foreign Office could ship me around. Cultural ambassador in a category of horror show. I can see the album cover—Ships and tillage, walls, laws, arms, roads, dress, and all such things, all the prizes, all the elegancies too of life without exception, poems, pictures, and the chiselling of fine-wrought statues—Lucretius, going on about something or other—

March 30, 2012: Said Dave the trucker, not a little piqued: "If lightning strikes every other team, the Canadiens still wouldn't make the playoffs—" So then, last night in Nikas. Labrosse thought it a turn of phrase, what Dave the trucker pronounced. At another table Fellini Woman was in full effect: all in black save for the blue denim skirt and the blue light of the cell phone bouncing off her countenance. On the street: the spitting image of London Lunar, right down to the black hat and jacket and head of hair and perambulatory gait. Or else the apparition was, indeed, the ghost of Robert Graves. Still on the look-out for his goddess-muse? And it would seem that some entity in Powell River, B.C., writing in an American political rag, indicates that he does not much like Mulcair who now heads the NDP. I have not much liked the NDP since they abdicated on their true function in Canadian politics, and this fellow in Powell River, B.C. more or less says - indeed, he very much says it: Mulcair will only deepen this abdication. Joyceville, Ontario? Now there at a truck stop is where one may find the world's worst hamburger steak. Certain parties wish to know if a certain ZWells is a poet or, in some time-honoured fashion peculiar to this fair nation-state, a hatchet man or both. Another time, perhaps—For we wait to see if the highest court in the land to the south of here shall object to health care (or Current President's notion of the same) on constitutional grounds. On top of all the deaths the republic has been asked to undergo, this one might possibly come it the coup de grace. One of my favourite flicks (as opposed to movie, film, cinema) is A Love Song for Bobby Long. Whenever it it is on offer I will watch a bit of it or all of it, depending on my mood and so, there it was, last night, after I left the boys to their own devices and to E who was on shift and having her knuckles disparaged for some reason or other that escapes me. I watched as John Travolta whom I normally cannot abide - I watched as he in his capacity as the protagonist, as a literary drunk, if you please, got himself gussied up to look for all the world like a regular taxpayer so as to honour the fact that suddenly he had a daughter in his midst—He carried it off. One has a troubled soul that is joined at the hip to something like a destiny, and then one has responsibilities—Beyond this there is all that 'family speak' at which Americans, and not a few Canadians, are so glib—

March 29, 2012: My goodness, but there were library wars in the ancient world. Pergamon, Alexandria - these are two cities (rivals) that are brought to mind, as per page 161 of Mr Abulafia's The Great Sea. Who could build the biggest edifice and stock it with the most vainglory - in all official languages. Morning. Nikas. Much to talk about; just that one is not in the best of heads with which to palaver at this moment. And yet, how it is that opera critics are the most jaded and toxin-producing critturs on the earth; make reviewers of poetry books seem positively well-intentioned in comparison—How it is you cannot hope to join the ranks of the 1 per centers unless, from the get-go, as when you were insufficiently capitalized, you were willing, able and ready to defend those premises by which the 1 per centers justify their mood swings and and some of their more dubious habits. How it is I scribbled indecipherable scribbles in my notebook, last night, whilst aghast in Honey Martin's. Which it is a bar. (What, the place thinks it's kind of toney? 8 bucks for a glass of wine?) Like I said, which it is a bar. A Montreal-NDG sort of bar. But for whom exactly? How it is smug in block letters spells S M U G. Which explains why cheap sex is probably only cheap sex, even at 8 bucks a pop for something red. Ah, that voice - Sam Cooke's. Perhaps the joint's good taste in music is no accident. When the night has come / and the land is dark / and the moon is the only light we'll see—Purely accidental.  Studied p h o n i e s pretending to know what good music truly costs - in a truly spiritual sense - seeing as Mr Cooke took a bullet in the chest at a young age for no other reason than that of race and that he had been good at what he did for a living— (No doubt something in that bar set me off; just that I ought to have known better than to have gone in)—P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, had it in yesterday's commentary that anything worthwhile that ever came about in the U.S. of A. owes its existence to the spirit of political pragmatism and not so much the brain-foam of overheated ideologues. Arguable. But a point, nonetheless. I guess Mr Carpenter has it in for right of centre wingnuts as well as those unfortunates left of left. In any case, we concluded the third season of The Wire, last night, E, Labrosse and I. It was noted by McNulty checking out the man's bookshelves, after Stringer Bell was punitively taken out by a committee of Omar and Bowtie, that the dead man must have had a thing for Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. Interesting synchronicity here. As but two days ago, by way of electronic missive, Labrosse, once a financier, sent me a quote from the same book, a quote that argues that government might have good cause to see to it that your average garage mechanic might want to have something else on his mind other than garage mechanics, or that the poor condemned to being poor and et cetera limit the options of a collective. Whereas, in the so-called barbarous societies, a man has a better shot at being a more rounded sort of fellow - might actually be capable of chatting up a statesman, for instance. Stringer Bell: Cardinal Richelieu you said your name was?—In addition to the fact that she was seeing Mr Bell in a different light - that he had been a man trying to better himself not only in pocket but in mind - E was all beside herself, and rightly so, as her French professor had been desirous of her taking over the class for a day—I have stumbled across something on the internet that might speak to the odd person or two who follows this post. The Baffler. It defends liberals. Well and good. I routinely have it in for a certain kind of liberal who uses life-style as an excuse for betraying life - but never mind—

March 28, 2012: I will try and say it without blushing: morning, Nikas. A clatter of coin as Alexandra the waitress, feeling perky, plays with the cash box. Eddie, owner-cook, six months or so removed from his last Cuban vacation, says, direct quote: "If you don't work hard, nothing happens." He addresses me by my Christian name as any oracle worth writing home about would. Otherwise, what I do, what I am about - it is all rather vague to him, but no matter. He plays the hand that has been dealt him. Uh oh - metaphor—Yes but, how much of life would be impossible to savour without the good offices of mediocrity giving one one's leg up? I put it to you. And yet here is London Lunar to say he threw a dinner party on the evening last. Which isn't the same as saying he threw the match. One heard that, in the course of postprandials, Canada was being terribly slagged, so much so, it was compared to Belgium. I have been to Belgium - I can see - but never mind. I can recall getting myself scorned in eight official languages on account of the fact that, in Bruges, I managed to get myself lost. That I was Canadian was no protective device—Now I had always thought the great library at Alexandria, one of the prime feathers in the cap of the Ptolemies, went up in fell swoop in apocalyptic flames. No, Mr Abulafia, in his book The Great Sea, tells me that the library died of general and protracted neglect, quite apart from the snit J Caesar laid on it, and then the Arabs later on in 642 A.D. Kind of reminds me of the Atwater library, one of the sadder places into which one might wander, the souls who work there brave souls, the future writ large—Civilization drifts into a gentle sleep like an old hound given a corner in the kitchen for its last days—London Lunar, no hound he, remarks that the aforementioned 'slagger' was to be indulged as she is beautiful, statuesque, let alone Belgian. Married to a husband of aristocratic visage. They always are. There is a certain kind of mother sons do not easily survive; and the women those sons come to encounter wind up paying dearly for the mother's hazing, son incapable of forming serious relationships—Cruelty is the one thing any of us have it in our power to mitigate. Yes, and the result? Male German feminism? The mask, the appearance of 'sensitivity' and respect? The last three decades, in other words, of a brave new world that has been nothing more than a charade for the benefit of news cameras—Is it snowing in Ghent at this very moment? In Montreal-NDG it is snowing. It is surly snow. One worries for the chairs on the 'bratwurst' terrasse like one might worry for apple blossoms tricked into showing up too early—Thistle considers I ought to avail myself of The Life and Times of Mordecai, and put myself in the know when it comes to Canadian culture, Quebec politics, and Montreal culture battles—What, and blow my cover?

March 27, 2012: Sometimes this is all there is and nothing but. Or that I walk into Nikas at five past eight, and the coffee should be on, and George the owner-cook greets me. I ask after his toddler. George who has been something of an anxious father tells me that, after a year and some months, she is already charging all over the place. I take care to appear impressed at this evidence of precocity. "Soccer player," I say. George, owner-cook, anxious father, is passionate about European football. No, not even synthetic bacteria such as might eat up all the world's spilled oil and then move on for us, has priority over this sort of urgency. Or whether or not Christ was an historical figure, meaning had he materiality as well as the other, you know - cloaking device? Earlier I read some verses by August Poet that I encountered quoted on Empire Burlesque, and I said, "Yes, seriously abstruse material. Tennyson greets Eliot and makes for a lawyer's brief." No, I am only fooling around here—I had a go on the 'classical' guitar with Ojos Brujos, a lovely piece sections of which I forget now and then, as I do not play the piece often enough, or else whole sections of my brain have gone MIA. Had another listen to Lonnie Donegan singing Ain't No More Cane, which it is the best version of the song I have ever come across, and for a Scots-born Englishman, too, skiffle master, having at a Texas prison lament—I did wake up with Leadbelly on the brain. Mulling over acquiring for myself a cheap 12-string somewhere and adding Fannin Street to my reppertwahr. A terrible thing is music in general. What is it? Why does it do what it does? They say that music stirs the soul. Stupidity! A lie! It acts, it acts frightfully. (I speak for myself), but not in an ennobling way. It acts neither in an ennobling nor a debasing way, but in an irritating way. How shall I say it? Music makes me forget my real situation. It transports me into a state which is not my own. Under the influence of music I really seem to feel what I do not feel, to understand what I do not understand, to have powers which I cannot haveThe Kreutzer Sonata, Uncle Tolstoy.

March 26, 2012: New Neighbour assures me that post-modernism, as a word, if not a prevailing condition of mind, rusts away on one of history's innumerable scrap heaps. "Oh?" I said, equally convinced that, once a tin god, always a tin god. Otherwise, nothing for it but to milk the wine cow and cartwheel and pirouette and nimbly tiptoe through the tulips of such history of such ideas as we might honestly consider ourselves privy to—New Neighbour, a fashion photographer, has entree to circles of 'serious people', John Ralston Saul being solemnly invoked. I am undone—Morning. Nikas. In a book of history titled The Great Sea, Syracuse (Sicily) is about to become for Athens what for America was Saigon. A metaphor, in other words, for overstretch and miscalculation, never mind ill-tempered, imperial sangfroid. And in Appian's The Civil Wars, Sulla who liked to party a lot with low life is marching on Rome with six legions and scaring the p--s out of everybody, including respectable persons. His is the first Roman force ever to be viewed as hostile to Rome. What, is one suggesting that, some fine day, tomorrow or fifty years from now, the state of New York might invade Quebec? Morning. Nikas. Ah yes, said that, already. Albanian waitress with the startling eyes putters about. She has bought my Herr Professor routine, so much so, she even offers to lower the radio's decibels before I can ritually signal my disgust with its content. What had New Neighbour said? Right: he is a 'modernist', too. Is it like saying one still believes in the revolution as Castro in his cups might have it? It does have something to do with belief - in something. But it has been a while, and can one remember that one believed something once? And what did it feel like, et cetera? One believes that to place oneself in the path of a moving bus might present one with problems, but one does not necessarily sing praise hymns for Science and all its Junior Departments, as per all materialism is good as all matter is material, hence the computer and the hard-wired human brain and all its fancies—One welcomed a new neighbour to the neighbourhood. What else was there to do?

March 25, 2012: Easy, all too easy, to condemn the present and favour the past. But there are days—There are days that embarrass one with the riches by which one might quarrel with the current hour and not lose an argument ever again. Yes, and then the more that is possible, the less anything is possible—Or so London Lunar would have it, and he can have it, as he says it so much better than the poor scrivener I happen to be. But for a moment, just one little wisp of a measure of time, let us digress and sample a wistful particle of droll film dialogue, one so wistful it has all the kinetic force of an 18-wheeler at highway speed. Or that, says the marshal to the bartender: "Ever been in love?" Says the bartender to the marshal: "Nope, been a bartender all my life—" It is from a film, a great one, perhaps, in which Henry Fonda plays at Wyatt Earp; and in the scene where he crouches down before his kid brother's tombstone and delivers up a heartfelt eulogy, one including the sentiment that, perhaps, one day, kids might could grow up safe - well, why this scene works and does not reduce one to a protracted spate of snide giggles is beyond my powers to explain; just that then, irony will rear up, and it does; and here it is some 120 years later in the same country, so to speak, and there has been in the news all that business down in Florida, the uproar to do with the young man who was shot down in the street for no reason at all, or that it was his misfortune that he fit a certain racial profile—But back to the outset of this post—Yesterday was one of those intensely frustrating days in which it was not possible to obtain a simple answer to a simple question in respect to a certain high tech gizmo that I might not have had any business acquiring in the first instance, though, of course, business such as it is, is in the business primarily to sell you what you only think you require—A problem arose. A couple of hours on the internet. An hour to a 'technical support' number and the run-around - press 1 for this and press 3 for that and press 18 and a quarter for that - ah - at last - one is accorded the possibility that a human voice - but now - one is on hold - and now - and press this number and you will receive a callback without loss of position in queue - the call that never came and never will. In the meantime I fired off a missive to a political pundit whose pet cause is science and technology; and I happened to say, well, science and technology - great - well and good - just that - you know - tin gods - a new tinny priestly caste - and - poor sinner - you are no further ahead than you ever were - once they have got your shekels no one cares whether you are hell bound or heaven sent. I receive an automated response. Thanks for your reaction. As if, what, my allergy is now your boon? And then if life is not petty enough and one's response is not equally petty in kind, I go down to Nikas for a cup of restorative coffee and a restorative stew in my scribbles, and am accosted with Virgin Radio at grotesque decibels and a boothful of women, all of whom have squirrels snagged in their throats and cannot chatter fast enough. Identity politics at the speed of light. Perhaps there is a city ordinance against modulation of which I am unaware. Later, in the evening, I sat a while with Labrosse - again in Nikas, and we talked up the NDP leadership convention, a political party from whom I expect absolutely nothing so long as it keeps tacking toward Tony Blairsville and affords Peter Mansbridge the newsanchor his continued insufferability. Nobody here but us chickens—Whatever happened to honourable opposition? Which gave rise in me to the question, one apropos of not much, I suppose, but: if one is too intelligent for optimism but insufficiently cultivated for pessimism in the grand sense, what then, is one? Tenured? At length, I settled in with MH, and we watched My Darling Clementine, a film I have always passed on, and was mistaken in doing so. We both found ourselves simultaneously thinking the same thought almost from the get-go: My God, cinematic—As if Rembrandt and Giotto had somehow combined on the cinematography—

March 24, 2012: A new correspondent, on the heels of a visit there, tells me that the U.S. of A. is perhaps the only country in the world whose poor are obese. He also says that Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Amish country (birthplace of one Charles Demuth, a painter who wore a top hat and 'pointy' slippers), is also heavily surveilled. That is to say, lots of snoopy cameras around—London Lunar, having been to a Hockney exhibit (and he extols the drawing but is not all that sure-fire-sure of the colours, just that he had been in a bad mood when he went to see the work), had subsequent recourse to a book of art criticism written by a certain Eric Newton (The Romantic Rebellion, which I seem to remember reading a long time ago). Yes, and London Lunar pronounces the book to be very fine prose, indeed, and very good criticism; and he comes to wonder why so much contemporary criticism is nothing more and nothing less than so much embalming fluid? Beats me. But then I do not avail myself of the stuff. MH wandered into my life yesterday. She had a lot to say about painting and the art world, but that is between she and me and the nearest fence post. She has just discovered Callimachus and Greek epigrammatists; and she wonders if I might not do better than to cease and desist from my long poems and start writing 'shorties' so as to accommodate the shrinking attention spans of all the good personages at large; and I answer that, no, I do not think I will cease and desist. If a poem comes out short, then fine. If long, that is how it is. There are those apples and I will take my chances. We settled down to a movie, one called The Descendants, a recent release. Mr Clooney is in the thing. It is a movie inasmuch as it is not cinema or 'film', and is a notch above 'flick'. Subject matter: dysfunctional very middle class family unit will muddle through come what may. As did, so one surmises, those Victorians of yesteryear. Just that those Victorians of yesteryear were perhaps not as given to the extravagant use of expletives. Clooney has what I call the Cary Grant touch. His presence alone can 'sell' a movie. Yes but, is it art and all that?

March 23, 2012: "Why," I put it to the Moesian as we occupied a couple of bar stools in the Cock&Bull on Ste-Catherine's, "do bartenders nowadays sound like they've just emerged from a course in business management?" The Moesian did not rightly know, but he could certainly guess, and he could more than see the justice in my remark. Not only that, he was able to promulgate a defense of Chomsky's Universal Grammar theory over and against the latest challenge to it, saying that a child knows 'language' before knowing 'culture', therefore, and to wit, demonstrating that human capacity for language is innate. When it is not elsewhere—But before we became too full of ourselves, and, as we were surrounded by very loud hoi polloi rapidly, and without ceremony, getting rousingly snockered, we repaired to the Avesta across the street, which it is a fine little restaurant. Turkish joint. The food there is always good, the ambience unpretentious, the music unobtrusively classical. Apparently there had just been a major student protest against steeply rising tuition fees, and perhaps it was the Moesian who formulated the notion (or perhaps it was someone else at a nearby table that one overhead), but howsomever there were words to this effect: "They should be protesting the fact that, all too soon, there aren't going to be any humanities with which to rob a student blind in the first instance, as all the thievery will be science. Ah, market forces. But for those people still clinging to their sentimental regard for the power of the pen, there may still be had the odd creative writing workshop. R&R, you know. Yoga moms" But, but - to the genuine beating heart of it all - did usury precede coinage? The Moesian would think on it. Unified field theory, indeed, post-structuralism be d—mned. (Along with clowns like Derrida and such. What jungle tribe has need of metanarrative? Or even technologically-induced post-literacy? Not that I myself am any less skeptical of positivist assertions and other hoopla, and would have been happy to get disgustingly smashed with the likes of a Kierkegaard—) Grey matter churning. At length, the Moesian's countenance brightened. "Yes," he said, "in point of fact, it did. Ever hear of the TWO EXTRA CHICKENS PRINCIPLE?" No, I could not say that I had ever heard of the TWO EXTRA CHICKENS PRINCIPLE. "Well, it goes like this. Whereby—" It is too early in the morning after for this sort of thing—But just to show you how little I know, which is not much, and as I am always the last person to learn anything, it would seem that some German company has bought up M&S, or this fair nation-state's flagship publishing house. Not that it is necessarily all that distinguished, but - you know - it is flagship. And they say accountants have not, in fact, taken over literature and culture in general—Furthermore, the sort of business practice in a payola scheme called pay for injury that has beset a football team south of here trotting its stuff as the New Orleans Saints is, so I was told at some point in the preceding evening, rife in every football league, including the sainted Canadian version of a national metaphor. Then the call went out: "To the barricades!" Or rather: "To 'bratwurst!'" As if it were high summer—So the Moesian and I hotfooted it by cab to my beloved terrasse whereupon we kept Jamal up past his bedtime and came up against a surge in the persons of Labrosse, Literary Thug #1, and E, just off her Nikas shift. Conversation was thick, fast, furious. Me and my trusty notebook were unable to keep up. Unfortunate, as there were instances of profound insight. Though I suspect a lot of all that can pretty much boil down to this universal banality: "Hey folks, we're f—ked, doncha know." I suppose the palaver in question will, like rising water, have to find its proper level in legend, some fine day—It is all on Literary Thug #1's head, the discourse on the flaming out of the humanities as such, and not anything I heard in Avesta

March 22, 2012: I am told the poet Jay Macpherson has just passed away. I do not know her work and cannot speak to it one way or the other, but I have heard mention of her name often enough throughout the years from people whose judgment I trust that I can only conclude she was, quite apart from her poetry, a considerable person. Otherwise, the weirdly warm weather continues, my head full of 'associations' to do with summer sounds and smells, as well as guitar reveries. For instance, I have been fooling around with a John Fahey arrangement of an old hymn involving the chords G, C, Am, and F; and a rather haunting little arrangement it is, and I keep playing this particular chord progression over and over, picking at the notes within them so as to scare something up. It frightens the neighbours who have debauchery on the mind—Last night in Nikas, Labrosse served me notice that he approves of the new Quebec budget and the government's plans for the future development of the province's northern parts. It was almost endearing, an old man's trust that the future will reflect what he has always stood for, or honest and well-intentioned capitalism in cahoots with whatever it is that dragged our sorry lot up out of the swamps once upon a time so very long ago. The instinct for progress? Was that what it was? Or plain old garden variety blind impetus? Otherwise, I was going to say that the blues is laconic: a whole lot of life (or a whole lack of life) high or low squeezed into a few words inside of a spare musical framework—I was going to say that, in regards to the skull of a primitive croc recently come across on a British beach - I was going to say it does appear that evolution fine-tunes and refines and so forth and so on; only that, and perish the thought, but could it be the human brain got out ahead of itself? No? So then, it is quite for some other reason one finds oneself humming along with just a closer walk with thee? I was going to say it is coming, if it is not here already: a somewhat heated dust-up, or a blame game over things Afghanistan. I was going to say that I have forgotten to mention by way of a quote from Appian's The Civil Wars, or: It seems that the ancient Romans, like the Greeks, set their faces against lending at interest because it was worthy only of petty traders and was hard on the poor and gave rise to disputes and grudges - reasoning which influenced the Persians likewise to forbid borrowing on the grounds that it was conducive to deceit and lying—Just note the use of the word 'ancient' by the ancient historian Appian. My, but how time passes. And what, but that even nasty old kings had a scruple or two? We do try to go minimal on the moral outrage gambit here lest we give the appearance of overweening moral ascendancy and other forms of spiritual greed, but that 'bounty' program, that 'pay for injury' business on the part of the coaching staff and players of the New Orleans Saints (which it is a football team, and football is the ultimate sports metaphor for the American way of life and concomitant values; or else, we are talking some gladiatorial boondoggle and nothing else); in any case, all of the above is decidedly repugnant to an old athlete like myself. I was going to say, as his name just happened to have surfaced, this week, in respect to the now ancient memory of his stand-off with the Canadian parliament - I was going to bring up the name of Bill Bissett, a poet, but one can only do so much for enabling the best foot forward of humankind to continue to advance—

March 21, 2012: Economic factors? Do they explain all wars? Inasmuch as the words are synonymous with vested interests, well then, I suppose they do explain all wars, just that there will always be someone to take exception to the colour of the socks one wears. Perhaps I might write a history of usury, and quote from Pound's Usura Canto as I do so - with usura hath no man a house of good stone; and I might exhort a number of young poets of my acquaintance to avail themselves of this canto, if for no other reason than that it is there. Now and then I come across an economist who will tell you that Pound did not know the banking world from the Pleistocene, but what economist knows squat about poetry? Wallace Stevens? Yes, and is there mention of usury in Genesis? Ah, Deuteronomy then. Which seems to have been composed sometime in the 8th century, Jerusalem. Just wondering, inasmuch as perhaps the practice of usury predates the fact of coinage which came into the world at roughly the same time as the Old Testament book in question was written —But what has any of this to do with literary gossip?—The first justification of empire is justification of self. These words popped into my mind yesterday afternoon as the day's unprecedented warmth had its way with my store of memory, and I scribbled the words down, and I will stand by their import. Hence, Athens for instance, as democracy's champion. How it set itself up against, and was set up by lesser players in the Mediterranean arena to set itself up against its main rival Sparta—All this setting up for and against soon enough invited the Peloponnesian War, a protracted and particularly vicious conflict which had a lot to do with vested interests but also with pride of place—In other words, I continue on in my reading of Mr Abulafia's The Great Sea—Labrosse was over, last evening, and we took in three episodes of season three of The Wire, and for an undisciplined moment there, I found myself comparing Avon B to Appian's Sulla inasmuch as both warlords had scruples when it came to protocol in matters of violence—I have been fiddling with an instrumental guitar piece - composing seems too grand a word for it - and I intend to call the thing Delian Apollo, partly because the music, as such, is atmospheric, and partly because one of Delian Apollo's chief admirers and supporters was a pirate, or Polycrates, tyrant of Samos and a patron to the poet Anacreon—What, there should be other reasons? I also continue to read in a general way the left wing blogosphere, but with decreasing enthusiasm the more it platitudinizes and pietizes with its talking points and is not, in essence, all that much of an improvement on its right wing counterpart, and the inanities incarnate to be found in them apples. Mainstream media, on the other hand, is not much to shout about, either. True decadence may be defined as the wrong kind of silence or death of intelligent conversation—I have been witness to a discussion between a couple of friends, one of whom is a friend of mine; and the one man is saying to the other that he should not give up writing, as he writes well and thinks clearly (just that he is Polish and subject to bouts of mortification); and I keep coming back to Juvenal's excuse, or self-defence. I am in the doghouse of Literary Thug #1. There is no room with a view. There is no backdoor—

March 20, 2012: In Appian's The Civil Wars, my favourite villain Sulla is happily going about putting towns and villages to the torch, fomenting the vacuum that he will come to fill with his dictatorship in the year 82 B.C.; and from which, not long after, he will suddenly walk away, as if to take up a career as a stand-up comedian—Or rather, he was a traditionalist and something of a purist when it came to the constitution, so that the prospect of a lifelong dictatorship was anathema to him. Friends and enemies considered him both cunning and brave. Perhaps he was the Roman Alcibiades. That is to say, he was, perhaps, a gifted fellow unable to abide by the rules of the game that lesser men honour so as to maintain their grip on leverage, or that the collective always trumps the individual. The gene pool, you know. Oh, and the man was also a drunkard—London Lunar's double, right down to the stetson and jacket and style of perambulation, minus the cigar, was seen ambling past 'bratwurst' the other day. This double had the steely-eyed look of a man about to exchange his career as a stand-up comic for that of a dictator—Yesterday, I sat out in the little nearby park where many a dog is prompted to do a dog's business, and I plunked on the guitar in a disgustingly sentimental frame of mind in celebration of the toasty onset of spring and the rising seas—Mr Abulafia, in his book The Great Sea, so far seems to have nothing new to add to the accounts of the great sea battle of Salamis in which the Persians got their heads handed to them by a ragtag assortment of Greeks on account of the latter's greater knowledge of the local waters and the greater suitability of their ships to the occasion; and because it was either publish or perish. That the Greeks prevailed forced Xerxes to withdraw to Asia and reconsider—Had the Greeks knuckled under, would our civilization, such as it is, have gotten off on some other foot? Or would the Greek lands have always been a bridge too far for the imperial behemoth that was then Persia? Idle questions for a morning in Nikas

March 19, 2012: Unseasonable or not, the warmth was welcomed, and a number of us kicked off terrasse season, yesterday afternoon at 'bratwurst', four women in the kitchen doing double-time duty, Jamal run off his feet with the waitering. 'A number of us' included Labrosse, Mehdi the trucker and DW, grade school pedagogue who seemed to be getting about under a rather dense cloud, inasmuch as he had on his pedagogical hands the fact of a suicidal seven year old, fewer resources with which to do his job, an ailing mother, and a 'situation at large' growing steadily worse. For all that, it seemed it was the child that had him most up against it. The one shock too many that a civilization cannot afford to absorb? We agreed, he and I, that since we had last talked (five months or so previous), the political climate was a few degrees more committed to the bad. So then, enough said. What was there, really, for the stuff of discourse? Syria? There were lovely Persian girls on the terrasse damn near in a state of exultation, what with the summery weather—We could certainly discourse that—And there was the sight of Fellini Woman (who is normally in black) in St Paddy's Day green; and she was at Drunkin' Donuts organizing her court, kicking off her season, she and her stalwarts—You want indefatigable? I give you indefatigable - this woman who specializes in pyramid schemes, or so they say, and probably carries, impeccably so, a minor in a few other significant human endeavours—Mehdi the trucker was quiet, though he was 97 per cent positive that a certain I country was not going to perpetrate hostilities upon a certain I country—DW, as I said, was glum and apprehensive. The wine was going to my head. Labrosse? His mode was stuck on unfazed. What did seem odd about the scene was the fact of the warmth in conjunction with the as yet leafless maples, and the sparrows seemed to be according the turf a pass. DW attempted to explain that he had had a girl friend over the winter but that what causes a soldier to snap and go off on a killing spree—Well, none of us really knew of what the cause or causes consisted, however many semi-educated guesses were flying around the table. Thistle who in his spare time is one of those dreaded ologists had seen fit to send me a cartoon illustrating the difference between the 'normal' brain and the 'criminal' brain, this in reference to the classic Stanford Prison Experiment— Normal Brain, in some kind of a pickle, asks, "How can I get out of this?" Criminal Mind, in the same sort of trouble, puts it this way: "Let me out of here or I'll kill you." Yes but, I can envision situations where I might rather have recourse to the criminal mind—I read in The Great Sea, subtitled A Human History of the Mediterranean (as opposed to a history of lichen) that in a morality tale called the Greeks versus Xerxes Athens and Sparta came out ascendant in the Mediterranean world; and idly, very idly indeed, I compared them to the U.S. and the old Soviet Union - to the capitalists and the commies (the Spartans being, you know, more 'collectivist'), and how they, between them, came to have the wish bone of the world in each their ham-fisted paws. Mr Abulafia, author of the book in question, suggests that not all Greeks were adverse to being godfathered by the Persian empire, that life was good for this or that city-state—Mr Hedges, at Truthdig, writes, today, of Eros and Thanatos. One ought not write idly of Eros and Thanatos. But his point is taken: war is a soporific, perhaps the ultimate one. He quoted Catullus in the course of his screed. Goodness. Some of us, it would seem, have no shame, dredging up the ancient bygones of Bygonia, not to mention East Timor or Sarajevo or the streets of Baltimore—

March 18, 2012: Morning. Nikas. One of the regulars who resides in the apartment block across the street is in to take out breakfast, but more importantly, to chaff with Eddie, owner-cook. Chaffing does wonders for the aroma of bacon, first thing in the day. There is a job description for what it is the woman does in that apartment block, but it escapes me just now: concierge, super, superintendress, groundskeeper, something - personage who has ear to ground? Snoop. The hedges she prunes are the best pruned hedges in the area—She has a lap dog whom she dearly loves, the mutt among the brightest of the street dogs around, and brighter than some of the humans hereabouts—I read somewhere in recent days that if you know who you are and what you are, what need have you of identity politics? It seems a fair question. It is a question to be followed by another: what boots it for members of a 'kill team'? Labrosse, no doubt just to pass the time, last evening, in Nikas, suggested that if you take a group of people and sort them out into a pair of subgroups of prisoner and prison guard each, sooner rather than later, the guards will start clobbering the prisoners as a way to pass time—Could be. Do the operations of 'empire' sort out people as arbitrarily as that? The second most sophisticated civilization, after the Etruscans, in the western Mediterranean circa the 6th century B.C. or so, was that of the Iberians. Spiffy towns. Syncretistic sculpture. Which is to say the human countenance might have been chiselled a la the classical Greek style, but the raiment and else remained 'Spanish' or echoed some Phoenician (Carthaginian?) influence—One of the great moments in movie dialogue from an unexpected source I will not name lest it come back to haunt me: C'est la vie, et cetera— These are near metaphysical words by which one might explicate a great deal as economically as possible, particularly when a lot of pent-up emotion is involved—

March 17, 2012: Literary Thug #1 graced us with his company, last evening. He had concerns. For instance, what to do with the daughter he inherited from his wife's previous marriage? This teen he has on his hands is FaceBook popular. She is socially-in-the-flesh popular. She considers that, thus far, she has been 'successful' in life. She is, on the other hand, profoundly indifferent to anything that smacks of 'mind'. There is no point to school other than that of extending her social horizons. Even her teachers might concur with this observation. Also, there is a little matter of truth-telling, as, somewhere along the line, she has learned to lie with ease. Literary Thug #1, a pedagogue once himself, having talked up his dilemma, reached for another beer. I had no idea what to say in response. MH was dubious of 'home schooling'. One cannot force a child into genius and success. But one cannot surrender a child to teachers who do not really care to teach; who have walked away from their own 'natural' authority; who, perhaps understandably enough, just want to get through the working day with as little hassle as possible. One cannot stand by and watch one's child become a casualty of what it is that is polluting the life of the spirit and the mind and culture in general. Worry yourself to a frazzle over the 'situation' and the fact of the rising seas, but that one's child has an utterly skewered notion of reality is the shock that civilization will prove incapable of absorbing—On the one hand, Mr Abulafia, author of The Great Sea, subtitled A Human History of The Mediterranean (as opposed to a history of lichen), suggests that Etruscan art was strictly Etruscan in the sense that it owed nobody nuttin' for its excellence; and then he reverses field and here it is that there would not have been any Etruscan art worth speaking of were it not for those Ionian Greeks come drifted in via this or that trade route, hiring out to Etruscan overlords—Who were those masked men, those Etruscan men, women, and children? Mr Abulafia adds nothing to my fund of ignorance in regards to the question; nor does he do that much for what knowledge I have on the subject - through no fault of his own, the state of inquiry being what it is. Just that I have seen close up and personal a goodly amount of Etruscan art, and like DH Lawrence, managed to find myself quite intrigued by these people whose origins may remain unknowable; who, in a manner of speaking, grandfathered the Romans. Were they indigenous to Italy? Were they Anatolians? Were they, you know, Serbs? According to Literary Thug #1, Montreal is unique in this fair nation-state of ours for the fact that certain of its young poets seem to have eschewed a great deal of the nonsense that characterizes the arts world in general; that the citizenry, as a whole, are less addled with pretension and so forth and so on—Well, these are claims. As claims go they are the product of hyperbole and the fact that one likes to think the best of one's chosen home and so, as assertions are wont to go, they are insupportable. Still there is something about this town—Morning. Nikas. And it is a foggy Montreal-NDG out there. And Alexandra the waitress is positively impish, ce matin, as, upon entry into her domain, I initiated a couple of mock dance moves to the god awful racket issuing from Virgin Radio, and it amused her—Glad to see you like the music—Words emitted through a haze of Greek accent—It is March Madness time once again. And once again, because I cannot otherwise help myself, I consign myself to relive certain traumas that were my teen years in respect to my passion of the time, or basketball; but that once one had been perceived as a 'social failure' by the coaching staff and so, was deemed flawed in 'character', a looming compromise to any success on their part in the American kingdom, local chapter, the fact of one's obvious talent was never going to signify much. One thought there was going to be a refuge of sorts in the literary world—

March 16, 2012: Morning. Nikas. Irish harpy and retinue (hubbie, son) have preceded me in the place, and are pleased to have done so. Rather improbably, they promise to be quiet so that I might get my scribbling in—And they're off—And I dreamed, last night, I owned a collection of John Fahey 78s. Audiophiles will know that 78s bespeak gramophone records. Audiophiles will know that '78' refers to a record's rpm or revolutions per minute as it gyrates about the turntable—Some music of John Fahey has some association with 78s by way of the apocryphal. Fahey was an American guitarist-composer-arranger, a so-called primitivist. Which it is a word depicting any sort of artist who proves inconvenient to a critic's slotting criteria. Hells's bells, one could make a case that Picasso was a primitivist - or not—Wild Bill Daniel wishes to trot me out to a Detroit Tigers baseball game come the season, and the season is coming; and he further wishes to regale me with Fahey anecdota and the Fahey albums that, of late, he has been trolling for, now that the music (The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, for example) is lodged in his head to stay. For all that, I am quite capable of talking Bach or, if I must, hockey—The Phoenicians, it seems, were a different breed of colonist as we might understand the concept. Case in point: the silver trade they enjoyed with the Tartessians (Iberians, or Spaniards to you). Not an exploitive 'colonial' relationship of 'unfair exchange'—And so forth and so on. Certain poets have tried to write immortal poesy about those pimperneling maritiming merchants—Jonah, fleeing from God, set out for Tarshish, and it was somewhere extremely remote—The Phoenicians did not comprise an imperial civilization as did the Egyptians, but they carried about with them a predilection for child sacrifice. But that the story of the failed sacrifice of Isaac is one among many biblical invectives against child sacrifice strikes me as questionable, habituated as I am to the Kafkaesque notion that the story reflects the quality of the contractual-relationship between believer and god—The opening of contact between the Greeks of the Aegean (specifically Euboia) and the lands facing the Tyrrhenian Sea has enthusiastically been described as a moment of 'greater lasting significance for western civilisation than almost any other single advance achieved in antiquity'. Could be. However, I doubt very much that what follows can be construed as striking a blow for 'breakthrough'; or that (so I am told) the armed representatives of a certain nation-state had a game they liked to play in a certain I-country. In this game, one, with one's face blackened, and garbed in some outfit or other of an olden time's warrior (one skilled in the so-called martial arts), would head out at night, and amongst unsuspecting locals, rack up a kill ratio about which one might brag at breakfast. If true, and I am afraid the story has high probability value, I do not suppose that this behaviour is emblematic, by any stretch of the imagination, of a renaissance, of piling democracy on - whomever—

March 15, 2012: P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, has come up with the epithet plutocratic yokels to typify the Republican primary contenders and their retainers and the odd puppet-master, as well. He wonders if the party is, at long last, bottoming out, a slew of mendacious foreheads close to attaining the nethermost part of a certain barrel in a quest to plumb the depths of intellectual depravity; to establish new benchmarks in pettifogging discourse. Even so, it strikes me that the entire collective is embarked on this particular venture, and though the party in question is deserving of its reputation, that it should be singled out as the sole perpetrator of the aforementioned nonsense beats me —Ah, the demagoguery. The stupendous range of ignoramity on display. But enough. We do not hector; we peddle gossip, and if anything written here should strike one as learned, it is coincidental—For all that, the author of The Great Sea, subtitled A Human History of The Mediterranean (as opposed to a history of lichen) quoting some other author, re-asseverates that the end of the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean has been described as 'one of history's most frightful turning points. To further quote Mr Abulafia, author of the book in play here: The First Mediterranean, a Mediterranean whose scope had extended from Sicily to Canaan, and from the Nile Delta to Troy, had rapidly disintegrated, and its reconstruction into a trading lake which stretched from the Straits of Gibraltar to Lebanon would take several hundred years—Well, there was a collapse in the trade of luxury items—But no, no joke. All those peoples - those marauding Sea Peoples - and those Land Peoples, too, more or less up to the same sort of thing - taking by force what they could not take by dint of a massive and obdurate presence, against a backdrop of famine and plague and earthquake— In the back of one's mind a spectre of rising seas—Side note: It may have always been common knowledge, but it is only now that the fact penetrates my skull: or that those biblical Philistines (you know, Goliath, his largeness an echo of the hero-type Homer would come to recall) were interlopers, drifted in from the Greek world, kinsmen of Agamemnon and Odysseus, speakers, when they arrived, of Greek or possibly Luvian. Jeremiah the prophet knew them as Cretans, remnants of the isle of Caphtor. They gave up their maritiming ways, took up farming, the Semitic tongue and the Canaanite gods—It does no good to romanticize the past, but now and then, say when I am stuck on a bus somewhere amidst people in a collective funk, and then ancient days - as when horses meant wealth and an attachment to something other than semi-conductors - obtrude. Boats adorned with the heads of birds at bow and stern—What next? That I should involve myself in computer games? Electronic peripli? It certainly could be that the author of The Great Sea presents us with a Dido more interesting than the Dido Virgil foisted on his readership, the prime reader of which was Augustus Caesar; or that Dido, along with her eighty sacred prostitutes, in order to get free of Dido's tyrannical brother back in Tyre, headed for North Africa and eventually came to build a new Dodge, or the city of Carthage, which, in time, would prove to be Rome's greatest enemy—London Lunar wonders why the Royal Opera's current production of Rusalka need have a scene in which a boy is sodomized and, doubling down, need require another scene in which the heroine is apparently ritually disembowelled—That the music is beside the point?

March 14, 2012: I received a summons from Labrosse, last evening, to join him in Nikas, but there seemed little to talk about. His fillet of sole was consumed in near silence; just that he observed that George the cook seemed to have loaded up his plate with an extra potato or two. Ominous—I found myself pensively looking out the window. Montreal-NDG. Not the most picturesque neighbourhood—It was mostly women going in and out of the liquor store kitty corner to us, but I had no intention of reading anything into the observation. Finally, Labrosse roused up a few words regarding the seeming nature of French political discourse - in the motherland - in France; that it is all so much TV showbiz; and the more absurd one's self-contradictions the better it is for ratings. This line of inquiry petered out when we attempted to imagine a Sarkozy-Merkel high level exchange of views, the mercurial peacock being driven mad by the heavy and oppressive spirit of the more than stolid hausfrau—I might have told Labrosse that the symbols such as accompany the ancient cave wall drawings of Europe are now considered a form of writing; and if that is what they are  - writing of a kind, then that sets back the date for the origin of writing some twenty thousand years and perhaps even farther back - as far back as Africa, 70,000 B.C. What ho those apples, eh? But then I only learned of this news item at roughly a quarter of seven, this morning, and now it is a quarter past eight, Nikas. Alexandra the waitress is in a good mood, engaged in mother-daughter repartee with daughter who sometimes comes in to work with mom. In any case, I see that I scribbled in my notebook the following scrawls. Or that I seem to have written control freaks of the right and left—Perhaps I meant to ask which end of the political spectrum takes the cake when it comes to giving control freaks purchase on the operations of daily living. Ah, now I recall: I was idly watching Conan the Barbarian on TV, having left Labrosse on the street with his postprandial cigarette; and I was wondering what a generation younger than mine saw in the flick. An escape from control freak reality? Or, as MH scornfully would have it: from each their impotence? I seem to have scribbled Troy and horses. It was the case, according to a recently written book of history The Great Sea, that the Troy of the Mycenaean world was famous for its horses and for the training of them—Such bygone days. I seem to have scribbled kingship. I have no idea why. But there is that scene at end of the Conan flick in which Awnuld, a couple of his brain cells kicking in simultaneously, hacks off the head of the king and returns the 'people' to their senses; and it occurred to me to say that here, here was an anti-oracular gesture if ever there was one; as in this case, as it was so often in the ancient world, the king was the head of the priestly class—I have nothing against mystic notions of what boots it. I have nothing against the sacerdotal in principle; but that, in principle, and one is always wary of the mob, a situation in which the people are not privy to 'great decisions' such as affect their welfare, generates too many opportunities for abuse at all ends of the political spectrum; always has done so and always will. "Look," I said to MH earlier, "see how far back this business goes of the relation between drawing and writing? See how far back, as it were, we go, as an item?" Yes but, she knew already. As if she were born with the knowledge carved on her bones—A poet in his 78th year has written me some words in regards to the poetry of Amy Clampitt, remarking on her 'catholicity', and further remarking on the Black Mountain school of poets of whom he takes a less than generous view. I am not sure if, by catholicity, the poet signifies Clampitt's wide range of subject matter or her religiosity. I do not mind that she speaks of Yeats, for instance, and Charles Olson in the same breath, as if both those poets inhabited the same poetic universe, and in a sense they did not - far from it. Not in Seattle, at any rate, or Tombstone. A certain member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Canada and the Confrérie de la Librairie Ancienne du Québec sent me a very catty cartoon, indeed, that would remark on the true character of Current President; how he, for example, refuses to investigate and prosecute torture, but is so eloquent; lets Bush and Cheney off the hook but fills us with hope; defends warrantless wiretapping but inspires minorities; and so forth and so on—

March 13, 2012: Labrosse did not believe that Syria has a coast, and his failure to believe only deepened the more insistent I grew that, yes, Syria has such an item. An atlas was produced - there in E's grotty salon, her swain doing the producing; and he directed Labrosse's line of sight to the pertinent plate, and, eh voila, Tartus, or what swain thinks is a Russian naval base in Syrian waters. In other words, a coastline, however tenuous, stretching from Lebanon to Turkey—As for the reports that there are drones buzzing about the various borders, swain supposed that they were of Russian provenance, but who's to say? We had viewed three episodes of The Wire, and Vicious Girl put in her appearance, she the shootist in a drive-by shooting, red motorcycle the means of conveyance. She revelled in dealing death. I suspect that men who dislike the idea of women soldiers fear the thoroughness with which women are capable of bringing to their endeavours - the lethality, then—Imagine it - an army of Vicious Girls—It was a fairly involved conversation that ensued upon our viewing of The Wire: Israel, Iran, and the U.S. of A. And who wants what done to whom? Sidetrips into the Republican primaries. And then, well, is Current President a political genius? Has he got everyone and everything right where he wants them? Is he more or less at the mercy of events and no-see-um puppet masters? Is there something inherently tragic in the fact of his being president at such a time? Who's to say? E seemed troubled by the supposition that perhaps the world, as such, is not so arranged, after all, as might render it capable of absorbing multiple shocks to its integrity. What would I tell my children, had I any children? "I would tell them to travel light," I answered, and I meant it. According to the author of The Great Sea, which it is subtitled A Human History of the Mediterranean (as opposed to a history of lichen), Egypt was not a part of the general Mediterranean scene until Alexander the Great got around to building himself a legacy, or Alexandria. And of all the various Troys the archaeologists have dug up to this date, it would seem that Troy VI was the one to write home about, its walls some 27 feet thick, its gates great. Massive watchtower. Two-story houses with courtyards—The author (David Abulafia) suggests that 'Troy' was not the centre of the universe as per Homer, was only a regional power, but that it was not an insignificant entity, either, as it had the attention of greater powers, though it was an earthquake that did in the place. And so far, what the author has to say for it all accords with the picture I received years ago from Robin Blaser via his students and disciples; so that, while I did not warm to the man's poetry, I do owe him a debt. It is true enough that the Nowlans and Acorns were stood up in their time, but it is also true that Blaser the poet-scholar, while he lived, was jilted, so to speak, by what personages and forces that swirl about in the vasty echoing Literary Department of this fair nation-state. It is one of those oversights, among others, that continues to rankle. (That Mr Blaser, by way of certain of his students, brought Aeschylus to life for me, is the better part of the debt I owe)—E's swain, having cleared up a little matter pertaining to Syria's coastline, even if Labrosse continued to suspect treachery and dodgy stage production, went so far as to suggest that for Canada (and by Canada, he rather pointedly inferenced Toronto, if not Moose Jaw), Quebec does not exist. The news seems to stop at Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, or the Gatineau—Well, hyperbole, yes, but we understand what is meant. In any case, fine by me. A young generation of aspiring poets in these parts is not as likely to be swamped by the institutionalized mediocrity as has the rest of the country at risk—London Lunar tells me that Current President and Current PM (the Brit) are about to exchange vows on a certain lawn. Said PM is attempting to pass a law making it a crime in merry olde Englaunde to either stare at or whistle at women—I tend to keep my whistling to myself, but even so, honest admiration is one of life's joys and, my goodness, but Cameron is such a ponce—

March 12, 2012: Livy, in his The Early History of Rome, states that early on, rich Romans paid more than the plebs for the military maintenance of the state. However, they were compensated for this fact with enhanced political power, such as led ultimately to the increased weakening of the position of the plebs. It was an imbalance that never got sorted out—We, in our time, habituated to taking a lot for granted, might think that, hey, how could it have been such a besetting problem? A little politicking and—We forget that it was not so long ago, and our grandfathers and great-grandfathers were getting their arses handed to them by hired goons over matters of work and working conditions, including a little item of wages—And, well, unions, anybody? In any case, I have done with Livy's book for the time being. The crimes of the Tarquins, political and otherwise, that so deeply shocked the Roman psyche, that brought on the republic all the more quickly, the Caesars some 480 years down the road, I can leave for the next time I get a yen to read Livy. The latest horror - that shooting spree in Afghanistan by the American staff sergeant (on his fourth tour of duty apparently) by which he dispatched women and children and a smattering of men to a total of 16 persons out of this life - it removes one from one's bookishness and deposits one in the middle of a question: so what's changed since, say, Romans were wont to foment punitive expeditions against town and country? If empire is now a term of opprobrium, back then, even your most skeptical historian-critic considered it a good. That is to say, at least that much has changed. Otherwise, 'empire' as such, means that what is 'punitive' is carried out at ever more expanding distances. Yemen by Miller time?—In The Great Sea, the author talks up how the Mediterranean finally got to be the Mediterranean (middle sea). Once shipping lanes were established and a trade was got up in wares like cloth, pottery and tin, the wine-dark sea of the Iliad was not far off. And in Appian's history, Sulla (whom I always see as a cross between LBJ and Attila the Hun) is about to massively insert himself in Roman affairs and have at being dictator for life; only that he flummoxed everyone, voluntarily surrendering power before he shuffled off into his eternal notoriety—Questions circulate out there as to whether or not Current President has once again been twitted by the head of a certain I-country. That he may have been outmaneuvered by the heads of or two other I-countries is also discussed on occasion on opposing barb-ends of a rather prickly political spectrum. And questions circulate as to whether or not the doors are closing (windows, if you absolutely must) on a notion of a democracy and just how essential to the health of the same is an informed electorate—Poetry? Never heard of the stuff. No, we do gossip here and grand historical perspective—Rot your socks—

March 11, 2012: Appian is another of the ancient historians I should have read years ago. His history covers some of the same ground as Livy covers, but whereas Livy is, apparently, a glass half empty pessimist, Appian is a glass half full optimist. Whatever will academe think up next? And having paid a hefty sum for the new kid on the block: The Great Sea, subtitled A Human History of the Mediterranean in contradistinction to - what? - a history of lichen? I could wish the author had more to say of the pre-history of the peoples who lived in and around the sea's edges; but then, I suppose no one has that much to say in respect to it all other than to theorize; and yet, what was with those early Malta-ese indigents, anyway, they and their temple complexes? Appian presents an economic picture of olden times that manages to ring a few fuzzy bells such as might clamour in times more recent, times as now as now, or: The rich gained possession of most of the undistributed land and after a while were confident that no one would take it back from them. They used persuasion or force to buy or seize property which adjoined their own, or any other smallholdings belonging to poor men, and came to operate great ranches instead of single farms. They employed slave hands and shepherds on these estates to avoid having free men dragged off the land to serve in the army, and they derived great profit from this form of ownership too, as the slaves had many children and no liability to military service and their numbers increased freely. For these reasons the powerful were becoming extremely rich, and the number of slaves in the country was reaching large proportions, while the Italian people were suffering from depopulation and a shortage of men, worn down as they were by poverty and taxes and military service—But of course, in the details, there is little or no resemblance from that particular time just prior to the Social Wars to ours of the Murdochs, of the Koch brothers et al, but the dynamics are not so dissimilar as all that—And if the immediately above does not ring your knob and recognition occur, then limitless human ambition, terrible lust for power, indefatigable patience, and evil in ten thousand shapes just might—A Spanish piece of music, one of Vicente's Suite Intimas is finally, at long last, beginning to make some sense to me, although any actual mastery of the thing, performance-wise, still lies somewhere on a distant horizon. I was astonished that the girl from Medellin whom I met at a party the other night knew nothing of a rich history of guitar music in her neck of the woods that is an entire continent—Guitar Teach let me know that what most aspirants fail to understand in respect to Jimi Hendrix (and as Guitar Teach had at me on this score my eyes drifted to the heavy Richard Wagner tome occupying his bookshelf, and oh, that history of Brit nonconformists) - what these people get wrong about Hendrix is that, while he was a wild man on his instrument, he also knew how to 'play it square'; that is to say, he knew how to stay on the beat when the music required staying on the beat—But then, the expression on the face of Guitar Teach suggested that he knew he may as well be talking to the wind - what? - as if I were the veritable image of a wild man? Poetry. I have wanted that it be a noble activity again in the good sense of the word noble; so that even the making of a bad poem would at least stem from a noble intention—Whoosh—Ah, wind—Perhaps my brains are scrambled. DST. Clocks trifled with—Captain Kydde, remarking on a collection of shrunken heads he had occasion to see in past days, said that, suspiciously enough, they had the likenesses of certain poets of his acquaintance, and what with the coiffures all au bouffant—I guess that lets ZW off the hook—

March 10, 2012: It was a bash of sorts at the Moesian's. On a theme of maroon. Which is to say if one was expected to devote an article of one's clothing to some shade of maroon, one might also be forgiven should one have brought along literary work testifying to the existence of the word in two official languages. Invitee that I was, I sported a tie maroon in hue, and floated some verses by the Scots poet Auld on the 'marooning' of Julia the Elder by her father Augustus Caesar on the tiny island of Pandataria—What does Rome mean? Why, naked sand, / rocks, a rude-handed wind, a crying gull, / while my body withers, apathetic, / and Rome is an imagined fever—The words, in isolation from their brutal context, almost come off romantical, wispy—(They are, in fact, a translation from Esperanto—) Whereas MH offered up a wabbit's words: "You maroon, you iggnorammmerous you—" There were candlelit readings. A Pole read from the Pole Conrad. Melville was rendered up by the host whose Slavic-ness rhymes with kerb or the latter portion of the word perturb. There were readings from French authors with whom I am not acquainted. The maroon word has a whole other order of existence in that tongue. A couple from Paris told me that, to Paris, they much prefer Montreal. Less stuffy, less hectic. The girl from Medellin let me know that she did not miss Medellin, not even in its guise as the Land of Eternal Spring. Columbians, she said, are so racially mixed it is not possible to trace back anyone's lineage very far—She had been to livelier parties, but never mind. There were a succession of parlour games such as did not include Spin the Bottle or strip poker. Lots of wine. Good food. A good time was had—No question that Labrosse missed his chance to seminar us on the subject of the Montreal Maroons, a hockey team that competed professionally from roughly the mid-1920s to the 1930s. Won themselves a Stanley Cup. For all that, a fellow in a wheelchair was big on Cioran who wrote a classic, in French, entitled The Fall into Time. Has nothing to do with hockey, but it does have something to do with pessimism. "One has to cut Cioran some slack," I said, "as he was Romanian." Perhaps the fellow in the wheelchair suppressed a giggle. Perhaps the ghost of Karl Kraus (he who had eschewed academe as well as Nazis) was flitting about the premises, who's to say? (Gave those Nazis the gears, reading Shakespeare to candlelight—) Beale Street Blues and Debussy and Sonny Rollins were background music. No, I do not wish to make too much of what was quite clearly an agreeable evening, but I found it difficult to view the goings-on separate from a general climate all around us bent on lobotomy, to be anti-intellectual being one thing, to be anti-intellect quite another. The slave boy spoken of in the previous post whose head spontaneously erupted into flames was taken under Tarquin's wing, raised in the palace as a favoured son, eased into kingship at the expense of the throne's rightful heirs (whose father Tarquin had cheated). Which always leads to political trouble now imminent in Livy's The Early History of Rome. To the south of here, P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator, writing on the anti-intellectualism of the GOP by way of the conservative David Frum (who is Canadian, is he not?) and the historian Richard Hofstader: I'm skeptical of carrying Hofstadter's classic analysis to a purely America-centric one. This keenest of American historians was instinctively dubious about the much-ballyhooed merits of unfettered democracy; from ancient Athens to Cleveland, Ohio last Tuesday, its manifestations are often nothing less than frightful. But, be that as it may, I would emend Frum's closing by only one word: "the culture in which contemporary Americans must live" -- if, that is, liberal democracy is indeed to thrive. I cannot say why exactly, but it strikes me that something like heartbreak has been elucidated right where it currently hurts—

March 9, 2012: She assured me, MH did, that there is something like a genuine political scandal underway in this fair nation-state of ours. But on that score, Labrosse was not so sure. Even so, last night in Nikas, he allowed that some thirty-five thousand complaints in respect to electoral irregularities were not to be sneezed at or blithely explained away—There being much on her mind, MH had need of the wine cow which Labrosse was happy enough to provide, as MH (and I) had just put some distance between ourselves and a vernissage over on St-Denis, all the old questions rearing up once more. Is the art world as corrupt as I suspect it is, so much so that even 'innocent' artists who have not much to do with the business end of the game are irreparably contaminated with a mix of filthy lucre and spiritual fraudulence? Or is the art world only hapless in the teeth of more than one storm besetting it? That is to say, it seemingly has no answers for what is gutting it, by way of personages representing both the corporate boardroom and academe, agents of the latter showing up at these events so as to schmooze and grease the treadmill that vouchsafes his or her capacity to critique and anoint and have it published. Why are these occasions invariably so depressing? No one in attendance under sixty years of age? The owner of the gallery in question blamed museums and 'installation art' and all its fifth columnists for the fact that the market has collapsed (at least it has in Montreal) - no sales, no movement of inventory, no nothing. Well, I cannot say. But there it is: installation art, one of my bugbears. As I could stand on my local street corner with tellywhacker taking the breeze and call it installation art and who is there to gainsay me? Good golly, Miss Molly, I could inaugurate a new aesthetic movement with an army of installizers—Been done? On every street corner of the town? Well, there you go—In any case, whither the standard? I kept the above mentation to myself while MH invoked the 'art spirit' and Labrosse worked the conversation around to an economics lecture he wished to deliver, following upon his pronouncement that food prices are soon to rise (you heard it here) significantly. And why? Well, there are these creatures called hedge fund managers who have been doing their homework and are about to corner the market in basic foods. Now the lesson, as per Labrosse, no stranger to the world of finance: "Say you start buying silver. You buy it up. In time, people come to know you have silver. They want to buy it from you. You sell them silver, driving the price of silver down. Soon enough you are happily engaged in buying all that silver back, but at half the price you originally paid for it—" And MH thought she had a wicked mind, economics not my strong suit. Yet who among us went on to make all that yuppie money? As per the previous post and London Lunar the socially inept and a game of hipper than thou? The hippest, of course. The ones most resolutely engaged in the arts of misdirection. Otherwise, Livy's The Early History of Rome, and I am reacquainted with the rise of the Tarquins and a particularly lurid stretch of said history. In which the fact of the head of a slave boy spontaneously erupting into flames as he slept in some out of the way nook of the palace may be taken as a sign of what was to come - and how—But never mind. I read that the Afghan adventure is even more wretchedly a cock up than the most pessimistic of appraisals have had it thus far, and the fact that the truth of it is not plainly more evident is due to a bevy of factotums, some of whom sport stars and other military insignia, covering their rear-ends and - but never mind. One can only say that one has lost track of the number of times ones betters have bungled things badly; and yes, one probably could not have done better, just that one might never have gotten into such an imbroglio in the first place—This being somewhat of a peevish note on which to conclude, I might go one better and suggest that there is a concerted effort out there to permanently devalue 'art' and render it irrelevant to whatever operations our tens of millions of neurons routinely concern themselves with, all in the name of a con, a fait accompli: high tech markets and the fortunes being made and yet to be made. It is as if the dears have realized they can make a whole lot more money if they can convince humanity to reinvent itself and dance to a whole new set of specs - but never mind—

March 8, 2012: I was summoned to Nikas, last evening, to attend upon Larry the software entrepreneur and his charming Natasha while they scarfed down pizza and the better part of a bottle of wine. I meant to remonstrate with my hosts as to their choice of toppings, in particular the green pepper bits, inasmuch as my days as a pizza cook bore out for me the fact that wormy green peppers - but enough. I suppose that my being summoned was to put my mind at ease in respect to Larry's corporeal existence - something I have come to doubt in recent days. But there he was, as large as proverbial life, cracking self-deprecatory jokes, inquiring after the 'morning shift' which I described as 'endearingly dysfunctional as ever'. I had not known though, as Larry knew, that one of the breakfast regulars, an old woman, was under the gun of cancer, which is why I have not been seeing her around. On a happier note, there were all sorts of creatures dancing about in Natasha's eyes which testified to intelligence and a life not unacquainted with 'adventures'. I thought it impolite to inquire—For all that, at the conclusion of the interview, I was more or less enjoined to go and sin no more—Which brings to mind London Lunar and how, at the moment, he is on about an old besetting game so many of us fell into once upon a time, a game that went by the name of hipper than thou. One would come across the game in such places as The Blue Unicorn and I and Thou, coffeehouses, you know. Ah, hot spiced apple cider. Cinnamon—People otherwise bored to death with themselves and immediate company. The coffeehouse (the Null Set, brainchild of a quartet of transplanted Bostonians in the Pacific Northwest) in which I worked as a teen was relatively free of that sort of thing, though we had on our hands state employees of one job description or another who liked their fancy coffees and someone up on stage mutilating Where Have All the Flowers Gone? The more serious forms of the game I encountered in Seattle and Vancouver. Literary circles. Drop the name of the poet Roethke (who was viewed an establishmentarian of some sort by the Seattle rough and ready literati) and one was hooted down and hounded without mercy, was most def lacking in à la mode. Which brings to mind the Moesian and his wonderment at the fact that I have thus far neglected to give 'Super Tuesday' a mention. Why? What is there to say? In any case, it remains unclear as to what and who will obtain in November, election day. And between now and then so much can happen that might upset any number of apple carts—I see that I scribbled the following in my notebook, yesterday afternoon: 'St-Denis. Bright green poutine venue. Snow on the melt in the park. What, in any case, is spring? Girls and their upturned faces taking in the sun. Like so many blooms. The heavy grinding music in the speakers—What is the cultural import of the loss of melody? As if melody is only for all the Lawrence Welkers still extant? Since when? There is the authority that destroys and the authority that creates and the authority of that which maintains and conserves—What have we gotten from these endless battles in respect to which authority is the only true authority? How to make money off the back of chaos?—' Well, it was only a bit of scribbling, a passing of time until I was due to check in with Guitar Teach in his hovel. Brutal session. It is not that I am incapable of simultaneously reading simple musical notation while plucking out the pertinent notes on a guitar while masticating chewing gum in time to a tick-tocking metronome, Guitar Teach visibly bored and in a state of spiritual discomfort, but that I am incapable— It seemed I was brought back to the first grade and to one of life's first epic battles - which I lost. Or that I had adamantly refused to learn to read lest it cost me my 'soul' - or however a six year old mind understands the concept of soul—The long-suffering and much exasperated teacher charged with acquainting me with sentience was often near tears—In light of which too many poets of the male gender whom I come across really have no business passing themselves off as poets, as they are only endeavouring to deal with 'sensitivity issues' in a culture unforgiving of what it perceives as 'doubt'. So that one perversely but understandably accentuates the negative and indulges any behaviour that brings inadequacy to the forefront, including deliberately funking verse. I do not believe Larry the software entrepreneur is one of those, unless he has a closet stashed somewhere nearby into which he ducks now and then, and, quick change of costume, and, eh voila, super sonnets. As for poets of the female persuasion, one would not touch any of that with the proverbial you fill in the blank, so grim is the prevailing geist, so inaccessible an intelligent conversation as to what constitutes a standard, an aesthetic, even a legitimate point of view—That there are so many variations on a pastime called hipper than thou - it must be a law of nature—

March 7, 2012: Yes, I keep at this daily, for the most part. To what end good or bad? Whatever the end, it is, to some extent, a loosely Socratic end, as defined by a schoolboy's understanding of what Socrates was up to. In the 70s and 80s 'discourse' was a word a lot of poets were throwing around as a way of justifying their poetic results. I do not know if I am capable of discourse formal or otherwise, as I have no particular expertise in any given area, but I can 'talk', if you will. Remark. Comment. And even be 'fictive'. I may not have expertise, but I have dreams. (Let us wait for the laughter to die down.) Case in point: the dream I had, last night. In this dream I was explaining to someone or other that the scatter rug in each our field of vision, in its capacity as a cover-upper of the hole in the floor immediately beneath it, best described what it means to be 'fictive'. Perhaps the dream was jogged loose from Dream Central by the special features portion of a DVD I had been watching before falling asleep. The author James Ellroy was talking up a storm; talking up how he came to write L.A. fiction such as involves cops and everyone else; and by his tone it would seem he had no use for seminarian discussions of character and narrative; except that, of course, it is always about character and narrative - that hole in the floor—The movie in question? L.A. Confidential, one of my favourites in its class—Moving on to other matters, I hear through the grapevine that a certain august poet did not, in fact, have a string of shrunken heads affixed to his belt on the occasion of his Oxford lecture, heads such as would have been emblemmatic of all his bete noirs - be they poets or not. But that his highly arcane spiel apparently included a notion of language in respect to a notion of democracy and the health of that relationship; or that 'easy' language is symptomatic of 'regimes'—Could be. For all that, London Lunar and Captain Kydde were left befuddled, rendered stupefied by the man's virtuoso display of a capacity to 'reference'. Therein lies a problem. Inasmuch as I am always being told that the poetry I write is difficult and 'dense' with allusion, and I know that it is nothing of the sort; that in comparison to a GH I may as well be writing comic strip dialogue. Where is the line to be drawn between the reader who demands a writing that squares with his or her inability to focus, let alone bring an intellect to bear on the content at hand and the writer's need for a little self-respect? To judge by the morning radio in Nikas, what listeners grasp most readily is celebrity trivia; and the fact that someone guessed that Mercury is the planet in our solar system closest to the sun had to have been a fluke—In any case, for London Lunar and Captain Kydde, there was the Pitt-Rivers and its collection of 'ethnographic objects' and free chicken pies, it being National Pie Week in merry olde Englaunde—Otherwise, there is always this in the It Was Ever Thus Department: the unbeliever, upon receipt of ill-health, turns believer, especially if he happens to be a Roman king. As per Livy in his The Early History of Rome, Tullus, having gotten the plague that was doing in his subjects, turned to the commentaries of Numa, a previous king, and found 'references to certain secret rites of Jupiter Elicius (so named because Numa, in his attempt to ameliorate the effects of bad weather on the imminent harvest, had persuaded Jupiter to come down to earth, to the Aventine, in particular—) The upshot? Tullus begins to worship this deity. But because he incorrectly observes certain ritual requirements, Jupiter in his pique gives out with one of his patented lightning bolts such as strikes the king's palace and burns it down, with the king in it—The perils of religion. The perils of anything you care to name—

March 6, 2012: From deep time a shout, Sparta's Callicratidas to Conon the Athenian by way of a message: "I am going to put a stop to your fornication with the sea. She belongs to me." This was after the action at Arginusae, 406 B.C. that was a victory for Athens, its last, as next up: Aegospotami. Which naval battle ended the long and vicious Peloponnesian War, and not in Athens' favour. Conon was accused of colluding with the Spartans in bringing about Athens' defeat, and this accusation is backed by some modern historians, but - you know - who knows? In any case, Athens was finished as a major power broker in the area, and would be settling into its role as a garden-campus for the Roman world to come. Otherwise, we - Labrosse, E and I - resumed, last evening, our viewing of The Wire, E our hostess. What is there to say? However one might characterize American foreign policy and its conduct in terms of good, bad or ugly, the street wars on domestic turf (if what The Wire depicts is any accurate representation of the reality, one involving players from the dregs right up to the dregs of high political office), are conducted with such directness of speech and such celerity of ways and means and ends in respect to quite clearly defined objectives that, in comparison, we darlings far to the north seem brain-dead. And once again, one could not really ascertain who one's most favourite character was - Bunk? Bubbles? Omar? Afterwards, Labrosse kindly saw me home, and then continued up the icy street to his own redoubt. And I thought it rather late - it being just shy of midnight - for my landlady to be mopping the stairs. But there she was at age 90, wielding the mop. The day before, and she had been all sleek and plush in her fur hat and coat, come from church. Now she was all forlorn and hair curlers, holding that mop to her bosom like a lover, lonely little grin on her countenance, a lot of time packed with life swirling about in her pretty head— Four years into his tenancy, and I still do not have much of a clue as to what sort of man Current President is, and I am not likely to know. Does one, in a theoretically, putatively democratic regimen, know such things as advertised? That is to say, it is always said, and has been said since one's grade school years: the health of a democracy depends on an informed electorate. Good golly, Miss Molly, you heard it here. P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south of here, chides me for my inability to arrive at an educated surmise. The evidence, he says, is self-evident—All I know for evidence is what I read, and it is a very mixed bag, what I read, and all that one might safely reckon is that the last thing the man wants is another war, he having another kind of campaigning to do. Meanwhile, high tech surveillance - it is all the rage. A vast swamp of mosquito-like, miniature drones everywhere is, apparently, to be our lot, coming soon. Welcome to this world. It's the one you always wanted, not that one in which the likes of a Shakespeare gets to say a pox on both your houses—Odd dreams. One of which sees me being delivered by boat to an island that is shaped like a ziggurat. Here, I am to be cloistered from the world for a period of a year. I am to spend that year polishing up my guitar technique so that I can emerge from the place having mastery of When The Catfish Is in Bloom—Brings to mind Ovid and how it was he was quarantined—Builds character, Caesar explained—

March 5, 2012: In any case (as per the previous post), the peace was short-lived. Six champions - three for each contending side, and in lieu of two armies in the field - having duked it out to the death, were rendered as nothing more than yesterday's news. Treachery did in the happy result of a mixed outcome. Treachery always has that effect. And payback for the treachery is generally vicious, a higher order, still, of grotesquerie and pain. As when the Roman commander, winner of the hostilities that ensued, took the treaty-breaker Mettius of the Alban side, suspended him spread-eaglewise between two chariots, four horses to each; and, at the touch of a whip the two teams shot off in each their directions, the consequence being 'fragments of a mangled body'—Livy, writing up this grisly little tale in his The Early History of Rome, said that it was the first and only time Romans ever resorted to this cruel a punishment, as if crucifixion were a picnic. I suppose one can believe or disbelieve the assertion as one sees fit, just as I do not believe the Americans when they say that, directly or indirectly - through proxies - they no longer torture—Yesterday, MH was in receiving mode. She had over the Girls from the Hill (a pair of them from out in the vale), country girls who also maintain an apartment in the city. Well, scones and tea. This and that. As I was flitting about from pillar to post I did not quite grasp all that was being said, but I did hear out MH as she recounted a childhood memory of a game called 'cracking the whip'. People on skates form a line and imitate a whip's action (though I seem to remember doing this in sneakers on the football field) and people fall and people laugh; the upshot being that, perhaps, this sort of thing still goes on; and that there is, after all, continuity in human affairs from one generation to the next - for better or worse. In other words I am still cavilling against certain post-modernist imperatives, especially that one that insists human life is nothing but discontinuous. Any poet, so long as a 'poet' is a poet, knows this is so much intellectual bunk designed to make someone appear profound. It rankles still, 1986, Rome, and in an English language bookshop, a literary rag I am reading instructs me that in regards to Shakespeare, the reader who 'reads' Shakespeare is Shakespeare. Sometimes one knows a thing in one's gut long before one knows it in one's intellect; and what I knew then was that there was now a force in play that would prove so much more effective than Stalin's need to have the Mandelstams and Pasternaks et al killed off; this force was out to destroy poets and eventually poetry, and it has very nearly succeeded. And while all the accoutrements and rationalizations and excuses for the building and maintenance of a police state New World style are accumulating around us as we speak, language itself has been rendered unfit by which man, woman, child and the dog might voice the odd protestation that is not already neutered by PC and other posturings. It remains clear in my mind, that afternoon, and how stunned I was by what I considered 'base treachery'. Three days later, I was in Verona, hunkered down in a small piazza by the Adige. There I began to write Shakespeare in Verona, which it is a poem no one has read, or very few persons, at any rate; but which served up the immodest anger I still carry about. That too many silly critics nurtured by academe have long since voted with their feet, even if they will argue until they are blue in the face that they have no truck with the nexus that is corporation and state and and military and everything in between looking for a piece of the pickings—Morning. Nikas. It may be Monday, but for the Albanian waitress with startling eyes, it is decidedly Wednesday, and she has a weary sigh on offer that would prove it; and she reminds one of the workaday world. Or that which a poet like Khayyam would suggest is something of a sham, his metaphysics in his back pocket, he waiting on the bus that will take him to the next horizon that leads nowhere. London Lunar says that music, because abstract, is the most immediate for 'penetrating the soul'. The question was: why is it that in dark times getting all the more dark, there seems only to be music; that it is all we have for a witness, words seemingly too compromised by the need to hold up the end of this or that argument. To drown out what noise? I find London Lunar's answer a bit brusque and telescoped, but then he is a busy fellow—As if a fluttering of an eyelash is all that separates John Fahey's Stompin' Tonight on the Pennsylvania -Alabama Border from Mozart's Requiem—

March 4, 2012: A hard freeze overnight after a day of thaw—Morning in Montreal-NDG. Nikas. Which it is a restaurant, office, home away from home, a collection-centre for 'intelligence' useful or otherwise. It is good now and then to take a compass reading—Some historians argue that the first section of Livy's The Early History of Rome has little to do with history and more to do with the shameless promulgation of tall tales. No doubt, this is true; and one does not interrupt an historian when he or she is rendering the world safe for the operations of reason. But I like, for its own sake, one of those tall tales. As follows: in lieu of putting armies in the field, three champions each are selected to represent the interests of two contending powers (Rome and Alba). These six men will employ sword and spear so as to decide an issue, the losers to find themselves at the beck and call of the victors. So then the Horatii have at the Curiatii, and it comes to pass that there is only one man left standing - one of the Horatti, a Roman. Now the plot thickens, so to speak. Inasmuch as the sister of this Horatii happens to have been in love with one of the slain Curiatti, and she 'grieves' her loss, and grieving, perhaps makes too much a public spectacle of herself; and in his rage at this slight to his honour and his bragging rights, the brother kills the sister. Now what? The Romans, even those early ones, being quite the litigious people, must hit upon a solution to a conundrum, or the 'nation' will split apart between those who want a death sentence for the brother's crime and those who want acquittal, as he is their 'champion', after all, and has just spared Rome enslavement by the Albans; while still others would prefer a middle course as will necessitate some nominal form of punishment. Which, in the end, is what seems to have transpired. The brother is made to 'pass under the yoke' (or what came to be known as the Sister's Beam) as a show of 'submission', as a rite of expiation—There is in something in the story that positively reeks of genuine politics, the imperfect resolution of a dilemma leading to a question of was justice done? As per P.M. Carpenter, Distinguished Political Commentator to the south of here, he writes that the Republican Party will have come completely undone on that day this upcoming November when the electorate will have gone a-balloting, and justice will have been realized, inasmuch as Current President will garner his second term. Forgive the zeal with which I launch into a predictable riposte, but here it is: why is it I am not sufficiently ripe with early exit polls and the consequent hallelujahs? I do not much doubt the electoral outcome but that I cannot see how, willynilly, a hundredfold increase of a happy state of affairs for North American darlings or darlings anywhere will instantly obtain, the crazies shamed into silence, sanity daring to pop its head out of its foxhole; and all sorts of problems will persist but hardly matter as we are happy happy now, as the good guys will have won, and because they have won, matters of torture, drones, civil liberties, class warfare, endless wars, and, you fill in the blanks - it will come to seem beside the point. Am I a cynic or what?—Someone has seen fit to leave with me a book of Amy Clampitt poems. I know nothing about this woman and know less of her poetry, but I have had an initial look-see, and, at first blush, there seems to be a considerable voice here emanating from the poems in question. More perhaps, later—Meanwhile Literary Thug #3, who also happens to be a devotee of the guitar of John Fahey, was over, yesterday, and he brought me up to speed in the rendering of the Fahey composition When the Catfish Is In Bloom. We even managed to 'jam' a little, and though it was rank amateur hour, MH rewarded our effort just the same by condescending to cook us dinner. For a moment there, I suffered one of those unnerving flashbacks that do occur once in a blue moon. Hippie encampment. Women cooking. Men folk idly plucking guitars. No, too too awful a tableau to contemplate. It is best those days have been left behind. It is not the sight of women cooking that horrifies one, but the men idly plucking a la, God help us, some horrible folkie aggregate—In any case, as I did the washing up, MH interviewed, as it were, the young man, and seemed pleased with the condition that his condition was in. In other words, when it comes to art and related matters, Literary Thug #3 did not strike her as a complete idiot. Otherwise, in else, he was, no doubt, most likely hopeless—

March 3, 2012: I sat a while with Labrosse in Nikas, last evening, E on shift, being all things to all persons. Perhaps she feels herself obliged to compensate for Alexandra the waitress's shift, the woman notorious for her moody passages in the course of a working week; that all too often she neglects to butter the toast of Larry the software entrepreneur; that she brings him his eggs cold; that she offers up coffee fifteen minutes after the fact of his initial request; that she is militant when it comes to the radio and its decibels; that theirs has not been one of those client relationships made in heaven. Small wonder then that Larry the software entrepreneur has defected and drifted into a regime elsewhere, down in the hinterlands of St-Jacques, which it is something of a strip, a wilderness; and one might go there and never be heard from again, Canadian Tire notwithstanding. Still, the mystery of where Larry had gotten to is cleared up. In any case, in no particular order, Labrosse would treat with what was on his mind: hockey violence, Bibi, Current President, and the phenomenon of robocalls - something of a sputtering scandal in this fair nation-state. It is to say Labrosse has been attentive to the news. In walked Fellini Woman all in black with her black prelate's hat, she looking very noir-ish, about to grace some ancient but atmospheric spy flick with her presence. She did seem rather skittish in respect to what table was available to her, as if Labrosse was too close in proximity to her initial choice; or perhaps she objected to me; and she had herself a confab with E on the matter, all very hush hush. And E, without breaking her sneakered stride, keeping the cutlery and the crockery humming through the air as per the consummate juggler she is, approached Labrosse to inquire after his spinach pie, and he pronounced it rather sec. I said: "Bring out the firehose,", and, but of course, I expected no one to laugh. Then Labrosse inquired of her: "When is the next viewing of The Wire to be? Can you tell me that?" E, eyelashes fluttery and signifying: "Ummmmm." Which is to say her energies are perhaps maxed, what with the shift, her swain, her studies, her TA duties. He (King Numa) pretended he was in the habit of meeting the goddess Egeria by night, and that it was her authority which guided him in the establishment of such rites as were most acceptable to the gods and in the appointment of priests to serve each particular duty—Straightforward enough, as Rome was now at peace circa 670 B.C.—And then the following, also from Livy's The Early History of Rome: He (Numa) further appointed virgin priestesses for the service of Vesta, a cult which originated in Alba and was therefore not foreign to Numa who brought it to Rome. The priestesses were paid out of public funds to enable them to devote their whole time to the temple service, and were invested with special sanctity by the imposition of various observances of which the chief was virginity. The Twelve Salii, or Leaping Priests, in the service of Mars Gradivus, were also introduced by Numa; they were given the uniform of an embroidered tunic and bronze breastplate, and their special duty was to carry the ancilia, or sacred shields, one of which was fabled to have fallen from heaven, as they moved through the city chanting their hymns to the triple beat of their ritual dance—Indeed, as per our rationalism, there is much silliness in the above, but there is endless poetry—The grapevine tells me that what terrifies Syrians more than anything else at the moment is to be caught with oxygen tanks in their possession which they use to apply to people who have been shot or otherwise injured, as the police perceive it as abetting the 'enemy'. The use of torture appears to be widespread, which accords with what news is now dribbling out of the country via the media. Otherwise, it is predicted that the regime's days are numbered; that the Iranian youth are watching it all very closely, and that the next bounce of the ball, and, and— I came up with an open tuning arrangement on the guitar for I Ride An Old Paint. In the course of which I stumbled on a still as yet unidentified classical riff - I suspect Bach. The riff is now incorporated into my little composition, and I am tickled with it. Be that as it may, I am having to wait for London Lunar's fit of giggling to die down. Because I had wished to ask him for his view on the relationship between moral courage and the making of art. Indeed, I can hear: what relationship?—

March 2, 2012: It seems I am entitled to regard myself as a 'citizen journalist', what with these scribblings of mine that wind up here in Ephemeris. I had no idea. However, I smell a trap, and if you do not mind, I will hand back what only flatters. On account of the following: does it mean I have been a citizen-poet, a citizen taxi driver, citizen pizza cook, citizen lover and now and then citizen husband, and Unsuccessful Citizen Candidate, some thirty years running, for the office of Official Court Jester to the Ghost in the Machine That Was Once the Glorious Left? Before all that foofara blew its brains apart and shattered into myriad, incoherent, self-absorbed sub-sub groups such as have made the Fat Cats very happy, indeed, and shown up as a whole lot more intelligent when it comes to exercising power than your average steering committee on This, That and The Other Thing? Now that unions are outflanked and outgunned by K Street? And yes, the radical femmes - they were in bed with Coca-Cola all along—You will object, as ever, that this fair nation-state happens to present itself to the world as Canada, not that U.S. of A. as, alone among its fellow western nation-states, continues to purr onwards and upwards with the greatest income disparity—I read that, today, the top 1 per cent pays a full third less in taxes than in 1970. The top tenth of them pay less than half of what they paid then (1970). In other words, the rich do not just get a larger hunk of the pie, they pay less for it—I suppose one might quibble about the numbers, but the picture is accurate enough; is nearly inseparable from one's retinas; and when the Moesian, for instance, as per the previous post, goes on about the sorry state of literature, he is talking about a great deal more than some narrow parochial view of local literary turf, be it Toronto or Yellowknife; he is saying that the one reality is in cahoots with the other. As per William Hoffer, Sometime Bookseller back in the bad old days, used to say, politics cannot solve what is basically a spiritual problem and vice versa, but it is clear that something of the spirit has been missing for a very long time, and the arts not only reek of that absence, the arts wallow in it. Is it moral courage? Is that the missing item? Or is it a digit short-handed in the guitar world as M or middle? Being, for all intensive purposes, pagan, and an acolyte of the pleasure principle, I do not wish to reinvent puritanism or shove religion down anyone's throat; nor do I wish to shove poetry down anyone's esophagus either, but surely to God, a few clichés really do apply, one of which is that, while we are all of us alone in our psyches, even in an absolute sense, we are nonetheless part and parcel of a brotherhood such as includes cockatoos and the family dog and your pet geranium. A neighbour to me back in those same old bad days - Vancouver - used to say that what was beginning to ail us was 'spiritual materialism'. She then decided to go and be a shrink in answer, over my silent protestations. Perhaps this observation on her part is now a commonplace, but then it was the first I had heard of it; and I look around and it does seem that it has been ever thus. Spiritual materialism? Well, apply to it what one used to apply to a rite of passage once characterized as 'keeping up with the Joneses'. Perhaps there are aspects of middle-class existence, when it goes down for its final count, that we are not going to miss all that much - the Babittry and the ritual displays of luxury items and the concomitant philistinism; but, like the barbarians as per Cavafy's poem, the middle-class was a kind of solution—Enough. Still no Larry the software entrepreneur. Either he really is miffed with Nikas or he is having himself an extended lost weekend somewhere—

March 1, 2012: The Moesian was over, bringing with him questions I could not hope to answer, but that I intended to have a good time trying. What does it mean to be a writer, these days, in these sorry times? Oh dear. And do you think I could dissuade him from the asking of it? But then I was unable to dissuade myself once upon a time, and I had no creative writing workshop or other social obligations to plead as my excuse. "It's become all about narcissism," the Moesian said, and he really meant it. He then described an encounter he had with a woman who was an aficionado of Sappho's verse but was decidedly uninterested in the men of Sappho's milieu. Fair enough. But she was heard to say, "Who wants to read a bunch of dead old white men, anyway?" White men? Just how white were those, shall we say, off-white Greeks? How is hers an expression of considered thought? Narcissism and got'cha. Or that the right of centres certainly have not cornered the market on all the Sarah Palins of the world, and I found myself saying that these sorts of people (or that woman whose shadow blanked the Moesian's view of the sun) sometimes imagine themselves to be bulwarks against all that is non-liberal, reactionary, and vile. Well yes, they are protectionists of a sort: out to protect their perks and icon status, they could give a toss about 'literature'—Don't expect them to get noble all of a sudden - when the crunch comes - and it will come—Here I will detour somewhat, leaving the Moesian to search his own silences for what small truths as he might spiritually afford, and I will remark that P.M. Carpenter, Prominent Political Commentator to the south, has observed that the disembowellment the Republic Party is ritually undergoing is near complete; and when it is completed, we will all of us begin to get better—Such an optimistic guy he is, that one— (Only yesterday, one of the party's last remaining moderates, a senator from the state of Maine, announced that she was leaving the station, suitcase in her hand, as the bad moon, having risen, is going to stay risen for a while yet, shining down through the trees on a bunch of old white farts, the insult, in this instance, somewhat deserved—) But before I begin to get carried away on the 'system' and its hypocrisies, it is good to be reminded that before there was a legislative branch of government however flawed, there was only blood-vengeance and blood-justice over and over again and interminably. The 7th century B.C. In what was then a kind of Greece. Do you remember it?—The Moesian now raised his head long enough to suggest, perhaps uncharitably, that the Brits had something once, however ill-got, and they lost it; and that it explains, to some extent, why Brits are the Brits they are; whereas Canadians, they are basically smug - as they get to be Americans without having to be Americans; and yet, through the agencies, for example, of Current Prime Minister, when Canadians begin to lose what has been theirs for a long while, what may be characterized as entitlements, they will not even admit they have lost anything, as they will never have properly acknowledged what they had—The Moesian had something on the go: he had that well, you heard it here look in his eyes—I must inform you that, at this point in the proceedings, I began to sing. Oh Polly, Pretty Polly, I sang. The Moesian slipped into another round of suffering. That it was nothing less than agony on his countenance. The price of mutually held rue in respect to matters cultural and political is, indeed, high. At this juncture Literary Thug #1 chose to appear, rescuing thereby the Moesian from an even more hideous fate than that which was his current lot. Big Predator Cat seemed pleased with himself and the course of the evening thus far. He opined, as Big Predator Cats with Perfect Egos will, that if Canada has become less of a player on the international scene, less distinguished perhaps, it is because it is more and more an adjunct of the American economy. I refrained from any further singing lest it induce Big Predator Cat to let his Perfect Ego lapse and he turn violent. Before he slunk away like a whipped dog, I did manage to supply the Moesian with a variation of Juvenal's defense, which it is that one may as well write as everyone else imagines that they are authors; and if one does not waste one's quota of wax blocks and styluses, they will waste it for you—The Moesian blinked and left. Big Predator Cat settled in for the duration, gossip of a very cheap order on his mind—

 


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