D.E. Steward

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Crazy Wonderful Slamming Roar


Thinking of my brother, d. 1988, AIDS

March sunup mid-twenties, ten or twelve ring-necked ducks zip around looking at one another and then they take off headed north

A fox cuts around through field’s knee-high winter weeds and grasses as though flushing out mice and voles for the two northern harriers gliding low just overhead

Might it be?


Everything in symbiotic nature thinks in its own manner

Reading in Carl Sandburg’s Selected to try to descry what it was like for my father born in 1888, d. 1943, “The smash of the iron hoof on the stones, / All the crazy wonderful slamming roar of the street–”

A thin man living much of his life on the lower Delaware across from the fatso porky Pennsylvania plenitude of meat pudding, headcheese, pigs foot jelly (souse), cracklings (chitlins), scrapple (panhaus)

Williams’ Paterson is like his Burlington, New Jersey childhood milieu

But the rest for him was an assumed New York milieu following Philadelphia, Omaha and Minneapolis-St. Paul

Trying to be a cream-handed moneymen in his Asher Brown Durand ideal world and beaten back badly by the Depression and alcohol  

His third wife, my mother, an Aucoin from Cape Breton, was a cashier in the Schrafft’s at Fifth and 23rd Street when they met

 “An article on Aug. 21 about a return to makeup looks from the 1990s misspelled the given name of a celebrity stylist who popularized Benefit Benetint, a cheery-colored lip and cheek stain. He was Kevyn Aucoin, not Kevin.” (Thursday Styles, NYT, 11ix14)

Les Canadienes have been coming to the Boston State, as they would call it, Providence and New York ever since there has been a Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Portland, Maine or Boston ferry or packet 

Annie Aucoin soon extracted my father, jobless, from Depression Manhattan to an old farm in rural New Jersey, where they planned to get his drinking under control and he could start to write seriously  

For their generation both these roles, common and aspirational, were synchronous

A serious disconnect must have happened because he never got underway with his writing and let his drinking swerve into his reason for being

He was a provider only in so much as his small monthly trust fund stipend bought the groceries, he didn’t drive and he dressed as though he was still in the city

What he did day after day is a mystery

Annie did the work and bore two kids

He had a distinctly Edwardian insouciant manner and already by the time of his retreat from New York deemed himself a washout

He went at his fated blank routine ritualistically maintaining to the end that he drank only ale and beer

He had two dogs, was affable with neighbors, people in the village and the other drinkers in the bars

His downslide in the country lasted fewer than ten years before he shot himself, the two babies that had arrived there taking the hindmost along with their mother

His survivors obliviously fortunate that his paterfamilias instincts were insufficient to drive him to take us into nonexistence too

It could be that Annie well imagined all that

And his thinking could have been shallow, he may have even chosen mid-April to take himself out facing the all-summer push mower and having to take down the house’s heavy storm windows

Whatever his reasoning, experienced with such things as a WWI veteran, he cleanly put a .22 long rifle bullet into his brain

Three months later Annie chose to try to complete the little family’s violent journey to oblivion by fire and smoke and a crazed and ineffective plunging of a black-bone handled carving knife at her boys

A dark vortex around the suicide had drawn in the lives he left lingering nearby

With a diaphonic moan, in the grand forever of the eternal desperation of human passing

To pull back from that embittered childhood and live at all was vindication, but to live on well beyond and thrive flushes munificent thanks toward those who helped

Fixation on father failure was short and fast in his thankfully limited duration

Had he lived on he would have been an horrendous handicap drunkenly dictating his severe Victorian modes of discipline

He spanked vindictively and mocked and even teased the little boy who lost him for good at seven and absurdly he threatened a military academy solution to my already angry intransigence

I probably was only six then and that beery threat, slurred out at least twice when I was there to hear

As for Annie, she preferred Anne, he called her Annette, in her twisted thrusts against her fates, she created love in both her sons after she regained enough sanity to come back to reclaim and raise them 

She set the substance of my life

When she died I kissed her skull through the wisps of her thinned hair lifting her to a gurney and then leaving her presence for good, something I remember equally as vividly as the April Sunday evening when I went out and found my father’s body by a box stall below the hay mow in the barn   

All on the way to now, a multitude of other good fortune

Not born a generation and a half earlier to be seriously hurt or killed by some spiteful horse-whipping drunk while stepping in front of the horse, being a shade too young for regular combat in the Korean War, and never having had to resort to being a high school or college teacher and so a lover of one student after another to eventually descend into big trouble

And all those beautiful faces


D. E. Steward mainly writes months with 389 of them to date. Most of them are published, as is much of his short poetry. Five volumes of his months came out last year as Chroma.