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D.E. STEWARD
“MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD”







I lie behind my face, and yet am present in it,
speaking and looking through it to a world of others who are in turn both revealed and concealed like me


*

Roger Scruton, The Soul of the World






and read Thom Gunn’s “Lament” and approach reliving my brother’s AIDS death all over again

“I’d never seen such rage in you…”

So long ago now, more than a quarter of a century, a quarter of a century

A generation, more than six undergraduate careers, the span of three two-term US presidents, and the gestation, maturation and higher education of an offspring

The full passage and forgetfulness of one era trailing off into another

It has been too long to tolerate

And he missed all that, all that he might have done

He’s so gone, is no more in any hair-on-his-wrists, dark-browed with indistinct cowlick gone to baldness, pleading voice’s tone, memory except my own

My brother

I cry when aware that he and what he was is so gone

Fastidious Augustinian liberal that he was before he turned mean and libertarian

My mind tinted by the LRB and the TLS, his in his last years by market tip gossip and moneycrafting schemes

Frigatebirdlike, at the end he banked a thousand feet above the high breeze-tossed casuarinas of his Key West and soared off forever out of sight

Fregata magnificens

Like black lacquer

As wheeled into the ICU of the county hospital in Pennsylvania, “Well, I was born here so I might as well die here”

The nothingness of gales tsunamis mineral mud

Twelve million foreigners were enslaved in Germany between 1939 and 1945, a number comparable to the Africans taken in 350 years of the Atlantic slave trade

Germany in those years like the smell of bones burning on sacrificial altars

The very air

Greasy smoke, cold fog, black waters

Keep schtum

Meanness is for cowards” 
Les Murray

The dogmatists of my decades and their doomfully aggressive fundamentalisms, fascism, communism, radical Islam

A vast and arrested religious culture so obdurate and dense as to be still fighting a family feud nearly fourteen hundred years old

In ways radical Islam is now a kind of sprezzatura

With its choking religiosity and death-before-dishonor codes

Uniform compliance in the manner of the simultaneous sujud of Islamic prayer

All the paradoxical beauty

Its tolerance and universality manifest in the architecture

The peacefulness of so many mosques

Polished stone, blue tiles, the domes and arches, their quiet water

…music, water’s twin” 
John Cage

Respighi’s Poema Autunnale

Such profound paradox

As Piero della Francesca did not paint hands well

When making it to a hilltop, an overlook, or the lip river bluff, remember to imagine the lookouts who have stood there and scanned around before, human and animal

Bicycling bucolic roads to the occasional summer smell of roadkill deer analogous to passing on horseback on paths in the plague years

Matted hair and grizzle, deer hide, human hide, rib cage collapse, corpus flattening, eyes gone via watchful crows and vultures, lolling tongue rotting from the muzzle

The unburied’s decay

Such is their stench  

Stench imagined as the substance of such brutal souls commissioning the deaths  

Long afterward the healing cycles of the seasons allows restoring

Hen-of-the-woods (Grifolia frondosus) in dramatic clumps on a new lawn

The annual appearance of clusters of stump fairy helmets (Mycena alcalina), or maybe its close relative, M. leptocephala, on the broad old stump site of an elm

On the land all abides

But it is closing down, and without means, in the twenty-first century world there is almost no avoidance, no getting away

Six billion in October 1999, seven billion in October 2011, eight billion soon now

It may have been just as bad in the recent past but it was a simpler world

All the way back  

More than half of the world now lives in cities

“…the cure does not lie in longing for some half-invented time when serious people lost themselves in novels
Jennifer Howard, TLS, October 17, 2014

Fifty years ago it was the école de Minuit with Alain Robbe-Grillet the pedophile, shepherding Claude Simon, Marguerite Duras, Nathalie Sarraute and Michel Butor

And no respite for laggards in the hyper-modern manner of social networking

tbh (to be honest), wbu (what about you), yolo (you only live once)

The game is rigged and the American people know that. They get it down to their toes.
Elizabeth Warren

And all those kids sleeping on cardboard and plastic on the oil and shit embossed concrete of the ports from Callao and Guayaquil almost to Galveston

Family and support an abstraction to them as for all the little pobres living where and however they can in Cleveland, Chicago, Newark, Fresno, New Orleans, New York

As the US imprisons four times as many people per capita as does Canada

Our country with its own way of making people disappear
Adrienne Rich 

A persistent suicide epidemic among young Navajos and Sioux

Coal seams are aquifers, so along with everything else surface mining destroys water

But the quality of blue in the southeastern sky ten minutes before sunup never seen before, never

Think brilliant, translucent almost nonblue it was so fine, early autumn 40.4°N

And how agreeable it is to write on while listening to earnest, bright Elgar orchestral

Seeing the differences that count as in mirror images and verticals whenever the horizontal itself is mysterious from the bottom to the top

There are many ways of seeing, of writing, of thinking how it works allied to floating free

The ballistic pops inside the inertial skin billowing phosphenes behind consciousness and the roar of displaced air flares colder without control of how and when leaning determinedly on sharp edge recall

All my brother, “both revealed and concealed,” guessed but never knew

So much more my brother could have understood







D.E. Steward is a writer, creeping up on a thousand publications. He has never had a pedestrian job since college. He never studied writing. He didn’t major in English. The only thing he has ever taught is swimming.‘Magnificent Frigatebird’ is an example of Steward’s month-to-month work. Beginning in 1986, the month-to-month poems represent a long, biographic work in verse that now covers a total of 364 consecutive months, most of them published. Consecutively written month-to-month poems like this one can be found in The Iowa Review 33/2, 37/1, 39/1, Antioch Review 65/3 and 71/3, Conjunctions, Web Conjunctions (eleven months in the two Conjunctions), Raritan (in press), Denver Quarterly (fifteen months), North American Review, Illuminations (24, 25, 26, 27, 31), North Dakota Quarterly (sixteen months), Notre Dame Review (22, 24, 26, 30, 32, 34, 38, 40), Chariton Review (nine months), AGNIonline (three months), Beloit Poetry Journal (57/1, 60/1, 64/2), Zone 3 (26/1), Gargoyle, Fiction International (19, 23, 26, 31), The Island Review, Anobium, Map Literary, in three issues of raft, Seneca Review 34/2, Northwest Review (six months), American Letters & Commentary (19, 21, 23), Chelsea (49, 52, 58, 61, 65, 72, 77), Caliban (9, 12), CALIBANonline (1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 15, 17, 18, 20, 22), Southwest Review, Massachusetts Review, River City, Bateau (4/2, 5/1), Los Angeles Review, Grain, Puerto del Sol, Central Park, Post Road, Heavy Feather Review, Anomalous (3, 5, 10), Hamilton Stone Review (32, 33), Passages North 36, Big Sky Journal, Abbey, Map Literary, Word Riot, Talking River 39, carte blanche, Gulf Coast (18/2, 19/2), 3:AM Magazine, Chroma One, and Archae Editions.






2017.