D. E. Steward


Eighteenth-century Vienna in winter, carting and carriage horses steaming under their blankets, Stephansdom’s bells clean on the hour, ice floe on the fast Danube, the dry heat of ceramic stoves, their exhaust a brown inversion layer between the city and moon

Tonight, here, the Leipzig Quartet performs Mozart’s C Major, K. 465, Dissonance, as though born to it

Mozart finished it on January 14, 1785, and the A Major, K. 464, on January 10th

In Vienna, then “the land of the Clavier,” on Grosse Schulerstrasse where he’d moved with Constanze and Karl in October

One evening that early February, with his friend Haydn, the other great prodigiousisto of their era, and his father Leopold in attendance, both the A Major, the C Major, preceded by the E Flat Quartet, K. 428, were played sequentially in all their wonder

The musicians almost within the hulking night shadow of Stephansdom laughed and hooted in their musical brilliance and the women with them rejoiced to be along

Mozart was barely twenty-nine then, had already written what now is K. 465

With forty-eight symphonies finished, including the great Little G-minor, the amazing Linz completed the day before its first performance, and the even greater Haffner

Let alone all the concertos, sonatas, vocal, choral, church music and songs

French trains and the Paris metro have reserved seats for pregnant people and mutilés de guerre, and there are metaphorical first-class compartments for the intellectuals, the third class of exceptionals

The rest of France doesn’t ride there with the intellectuals, is mainly uninterested in what goes on with them, but knows that those compartments’ seats will always be full

When considering the world, look upstream, as from an island in the middle of a wide and fast-flowing river

India confidently steers into its jingoistic modernism with many millions of AIDS cases and half its children still undernourished

“”The mosques are our barracks, their domes our helmets / Minarets are our spears, the faithful our army” – Ziya Gökalp

Kittens on the swash of an Andalusian beach thrown out to drown, eyes closed, covered with sand, struggling for warmth in the vastness at water’s edge

On the South Korean flag, the cursive halves of a Yin Yang circle, the curvilinear dagger motif seen in traceries are called mouchettes

A pair of us, a pair of them

Brilliant early morning now, in low humidity, mist over open water, sun coming onto it through a foliage screen

The mist off the water gathers briefly into columns like small tree trunks that twist as they evaporate upward

Chatoyant purple grackles strut around as though they’re merely clinging to the earth, prepared to take back to the air instantly

As though to the tempo of the Adagio molto, the third movement, of Schumann’s A Major Quartet

“”My world is the world of words and books. It is a crowded, shrinking place. Not long ago it had been larger, but…” ¬– Michael Holroyd


After June, 1941, before the gas chambers and crematoriums the SS-Einsatzgruppen cruised Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states and mostly with small arms killed a million three-hundred thousand Jews

Mostly face-to-face

Just as in Rwanda the killers killed face-to-face

The people of Mozart, Haydn and Schumann used Lugers to the temple or occiput, mobile gassing vans, starved hundreds of thousands behind wire in Ukraine

Babi Yar

Vida: Waking from sleep and instantly wondering when and where I am, and then finding the place in my life like riffling the pages of a book

Unibomber Ted Kaczynski tried to bring down an American Airlines flight in 1979 in his first terrorist attempt

With the compassion of a house cat killing songbirds

He and his conscientious brother, both earnest opposite pitch spinoffs from the lonely American suburb

Feckless you-can’t-get-there-from-here feeling

Streets leading to circles with no exit, nothing leading anywhere else, everything zoned entirely, only the grass alive

Mock-stately cathedral ceilings and chandelier entrances, cars parked in the driveways, garages become storage sheds, no place for the kids to hang out

Miles to anywhere

And once there there, to a dreary town or mall, only more parking lots

Diminished cosmopolitanism, the same mistake Emperor Nero made in encouraging garden estates inside his capital, rus in urbe

Outside, here, now, a dozen nearly-mature wood ducks, churning and bobbing close around their mother who is confused now in her protective roll

A piliated woodpecker’s drumming out across the line of trees

“”Drum slow, powerful, accelerating, and trailing off at end; infrequent, no more than two times per minute” – Sibley

Barlach’s Moses is stiff, righteous and vertical, with the tablets grasped underneath in the way a person carries a wall mirror, the figure’s lower lip stuck out self-righteously

Novelists’ early books are often worth reading for all the eager, impassioned information implicit in their pedantry

The techno-didactic, the brand-name indulgent

Arguing the great-man-in-history theory is, with our perspective, probably much like the medievals speculating on angels

“”What is remembered is not testimony but literature” – Sontag

Pound tried hard to create new mysteries in a world that to him apparently had few mysteries left

The religious – other than nuns, monks and the like – are necessarily split between the contemplative and the active

An Anglo-Saxon noun for conscience is ynwit

In the tropics, and after hot days anywhere, pools of heat hang into the night under thick-foliaged trees

Cecil Rhodes made his bequest to train Americans at Oxford under the impression there were still only the original thirteen states that the British Empire might be able to win back

Whisky was that empire’s Krazy Glue

Ours is fast food

“”As it were,” in that peculiar English penchant for verbally prefacing everything they’re about to do

Ours for self-righteous justifying is usually, “Absolutely”

Vida: At a crossroads in Silesia six kilometers from Auschwitz, stopped to watch five Roma wagons moving slowly northward

Trotted along beside one for a while, the man on the box said they might reach the Baltic that summer, and that they’d come south again to winter below the Carpathians

Roma must have cursed in Romany as they faced the Mausers, as they were steered toward the burial pits or gas chambers, sneered back over their shoulders at the soldiers and guard dogs who crowded them

The Roma, slain in the tens of thousands, probably were the least compliant in the camps

Jews and Roma both pushed outside fascist society, dying together for the same and different reasons

Only Germans could have concocted a rationale for that

There are always people who look like other people, and people who look like the type of people each of us knows most of

But of course these later ones are almost never the unspecific person supposed


D. E. Steward is in his twenty-sixth year of months in the mode of “Iuno.” Written serially, month to month, many have autobiographical reference, but the work is not an expanded Jahrbuch. It has affinity to Cyril Connolly’s The Unquiet Grave, and Evan S. Connell’s two books of a similar kind. Almost two thirds of the 308 months in the project so far have been published in magazines: Denver Quarterly, Conjunctions, Massachusetts Review, Antioch Review, Zone 3, American Letters & Commentary, Grain, Bateau, Illuminations, etc.

Print Friendly