• D. E. Steward
  • Distinctly Cyan
The historian’s highest duty – said Walter Benjamin – is remembrance of past suffering

During the Balkans patrias chicas civil wars there was talk of the Sontagging of Bosnia

Like a bossy kid in the sandbox in the spring of 1999 trying to limit people from reading Peter Hanke because he was not with her on Kosovo

Those brutal Balkan events all to do with religion and militarist solutions

“all presence goes deeper than signs – / the land is written over, never out” (John Kinsella)

Sibelius’s Sixth’s first movement’s early theme somberly is like eerie skittering storm-blown low black clouds in a sky going gray-green

Nessun dorma

A sergeant in a WWI balloon detachment in Omaha, my father never left the ground but he sat me on the lap of a Civil War veteran turned centenarian, and during the same pre-WWII spring took me to Raven Rock on the middle Delaware to see Army engineers, still in Brodie Doughboy helmets and puttees, float a pontoon bridge

“Hoy recuerdo a las muertes de mi casa.” (Octavio Paz)

Brome, phragmites, quackgrass, goosegrass, giant cutgrass, crabgrass, witchgrass, barnyard grass, bristlegrass, sheep sorrel, sandspur, broomsedge, stinging nettles

Milpa, the three sisters, corn, beans and squash: king’s banquet pole bean, Hopi cushaw squash, Ute squash, Nicotiana rustica, rattlesnake bean, amaranth, Lafenaria siceraria (gourds), Hopi blue corn

In a letter from a European, seventyish Buddhist nun in Sarnath near Varanasi:

People just pop up and I am here for them. One, a new nun, is eight, the daughter of Usha, the helper of the old nun, who comes to help me with the heavy wash. Then another child I have is that 96-year-old nun, along with a young sick monk, fourteen, and another about eight. It is never ending, very challenging. I am getting ready to go, writing down what to do with my body and actually I am quiet, happy, satisfied.

En Sof

In Riga at -15C in the January wind, 30,000 Latvians stood in a two-kilometer 2014 transfer brigade between the Latvian National Library old and the new, hand-to-hand proudly passing thousands of books

A. R. Ammons’ colossal and private “Summer Session,” bemused splenderà:
nevertheless into raw
space we turn, sun
feeding cosmic drift through
expelling radiance of cosmic storm,
and we are at an
incredible height going round

Why suicide bombers? Why? And so commonplace

Boko Haram has dispatched ten-year-old girls, just like any “weapon”

Outrageous martial enigmas mushroom from the blunt, cynical ennui of military mindsets

But the bombers are people, mostly questing, sometimes coerced, kids

And there are so many, so many volunteer, comply, take a deep breath and pull the ring

Belief? Blubbering faith in the act of their self-immolation?

The vessel of Islam on a Gaussian error heading

Deviation, same course held too long

Gaussian error is deviation of a magnetic compass due to transient magnetism in the hull appearing after a vessel has been on the same course for extended periods

Angry historical revenge bolstered by nitpicking Quranic justifications

And Gaussian error is also a mathematical error function

Dylan Thomas’s water-lammed, widdershin, mitching, haring, gristed, spinney, swansing

Dell, vale, dingle, a strath, a glen, glade, slade, dene, combe, in Welsh a cwm

“In the vast ocean of literature written in Latin between the time of Petrarch and the nineteenth century, only a few islands are these days generally visible” (Philip Hardie)

And behind that, the pensive, shadowy vastness of preliterate reality

Incisively mysterious like the lofty presence of giant fruit bats, the hefty flying foxes, Pteropous tonganus, of Vanuabalavu

Like the profoundly complicated episodes and lives of people gone, those once known who are now dead

What is missing, what was, the essence voided except in still cogent memories

In that comforting immediacy of strong memory

And elders, the oldlings, hold their deep recollective reserve

Younglings skim, always off on sunny seas

And the past rapidly recedes

An ill-lighted cave

“An average person of 1910, if he or she had entered a time machine and materialized today would be borderline retarded by our standards.” (TED-talking Steven Pinker)


Yet halfway back to 1910: “‘I want to get away somewhere and re-read Proust’ / Said an editor of Fortune to a man on Time” (Weldon Kees)

Now Time-Life is a music packaging company and Fortune Magazine is almost forgotten

These days that Time-Life ilk lounge around the common rooms of geezerheims after lunch and before their naps, venturing their might-have-beens

Or sit reminiscing on a clubhouse bench beside their golf carts before the bar opens

Aloof from them, his particular post-stroke dyskinesia makes most look away

While in his eighth year of static disability and a drab constant of hobbled experience his friends still cater to him with their attention and time

He, in the manner of the wasted and expiring, back from a war, or post-stroke, or merely uselessly useless and accepting that they are

With no more eagerly explosive youthful bright cyan phosphenes

Too, such are survivors born to awful circumstance

Seventy percent of Northern Nigeria is illiterate

Boko Haram translates in English as “western education is forbidden”

States of Nigeria within Boko Haram’s zone are Zamfara, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Eastern Region, Delta

The country’s population, 196 million now, is fifty percent Muslim

It will be 392 million by 2050, Lagos alone with 33 million

Passing Indonesia, likely that Nigeria will become the world’s largest Islamic country

Nigerian southerners are in deep fear of that, heralded by the sharia-tending desert north

And eighteen million Fulani pastoralists push south for sparse grazing

As the Sahara grows, now, second decade, twenty-first century

Hausa-Fulani herdsmen, illiterate, nomadic, in conflict with the farmers and climate change

Cowpunchers versus sodbusters

Desperate for survival

Vast herds of ghostly white Fulani humped cattle with high lyre-shaped horns on the move