Guest Editorial/Commentary by D.E. Steward

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"In the Trump era, there is no past and no future, no history and no vision ­– only the anxious present” -- Masha Gessen

But it took covid to beat him

And the Proud Boys are still out there standing by

With the white angst cult and acquiescing senators waiting in the half-light aside 

As the covid winter approaches

As many of the geezers already have died before their actuarials   

And through this winter and seasons beyond many more will too

Many, many more

With the president having abdicated responsibility early on

By the election, daily covid deaths in this country became the sum of two packed jumbo jets crashing

“You’ve always known that is how the world ends: / you find yourself in a crowd of senseless people / and it’s pointless to stare or deal with them calmly.”  (Cesare Pavese)

Many of the dying did not write things down, had not thought it through, had no opportunity to talk it out

Too-soon deaths

Often in isolation without last visits and last words

In ICUs with only those helping them die nearby

When they can no longer breathe 

“They turn apple red as they die and their eyes bulge”

They repeatedly try to catch their breath

Gasp as if under water trying to inhale

They gasp and plea

Gasp and cough

And cough and cough and gag

Onto death

Code Blue

This is the way they die

Faces flushed, eyes bulging

The awareness they had lived toward grandparenthood lost

That apparent primordial need of some elders for les petits-enfants passed unfulfilled

The generation after them tries to live and still rides the 747s and Airbuses, their elders left in place, isolated, cowed

The numbers always grow now 

And every covid death shadows like a suicide for the doomed patient’s family

Death unprepared for, grim reaper style

With extending savvy and awareness possibly the most cogent thrust of civilization

“I stop somewhere waiting for you”  (Whitman, “Song of Myself”)

While they crossed the Militini Strait to Mória and waited for the others

Come awake startled from a dream of watching a Virginia slave auction

Now to watch them being packed onto the boats crossing from Turkey

To cluster in the fetid stop-time purgatory of Mória’s squalid and futureless camp   

Most mornings lie for a while awake soaring around in the plein air of memory

Often remembering the rough

Often fix now on the covid horror

And then get up and get to it

 “–as though every life / Were a long effort to salvage something of its past”  (John Koethe)

Leaving the void from losing what is not passed on down

Gone, blocked within the past

Eighty years ago the vicious nomenclature, The Camps, hung in awareness like a skull on a pole, a substantive that meant a distinctly different doom than is Mória’s

At Auschwitz more than a million hundred thousand Jews were killed, and nearly seventy-five thousand Poles, over twenty thousand Roma and about fifteen thousand Soviet prisoners of war

Off the boxcars at the Auschwitz railroad spur, selection was immediate and in an ultimate triage elders went right to the disrobing rooms before the showers, the gas

It happened fast

Dying unable to breathe, gasping onto death

Camps these days are multi-purposed

For asylum-seekers from Libya to anywhere

For the astonishing multitude of Syrian refugees

For Dadaab’s hundreds of thousands

In Kenya too, the Kakuma Camp for the two hundred thousand mostly South Sudanese

For the Mozambiques in Malawi

For Venezuelans at the Colombian border

For the many thousands trying to pass the Balkans into Europe

For families waiting in Matamoros against la línea for papers to petition Stephen Miller’s bureaucrats

For the displaced and misplaced in Africa, Central America, the Middle East, South Asia

Millions uprooted by politics, religion, climate change, machtpolitik, growing famine

Searching for a future now in the new compounds, the shack and tent villages speckled over the planet

With their kids, the old, the slow, the lame, the psychotic, those needing special help with no backup for their dental pains, infections, lost glasses, worn shoes, scant underwear, no warm clothes, no dry clothes

People with no extras, without backups, or reserves

With no privacies in their lives

And blank futures         

As it is too for those who simply can’t make it, don’t walk well, cannot keep up, those with language problems or who clash with or resist the system, those who give it up and try to go home

“to see what can be unburdened by what has been”  (Kamala Harris, November 7, 2020)

Our camps here lie within, yclept as migrant detention centers

Run by ICE

Triage by passport and identity

And covid herd immunity in El Paso becoming almost real with a half dozen refrigerated semi trailer morgues and more on the way


November 11, 2020, more than 140,000 new US cases, the latest all-time high 

With masks still widely scorned

Virtual herd immunity unrealistic like actual herd immunity

Real time exposure to contagion rolls the dice, turns the hole card, raises every round

Oblique insanity in all this parsing of contagion odds

Settling toward herd immunity translates to triage

Three dozen covid deaths in a single Kentucky veterans’ home this week

More brutal triage by geezer circumstance 

In person presence and then testing positive while being aged can mean the end of things as you live them all the way to dying

More numbers four days on, 181,000 new cases in this country reported

November 18, 2020 now with a quarter of a million covid deaths here

People triaged toward covid by obliviousness and obduracy, by social circumstance

November 20, the covid case growth today is 183,000

Before two here, same day, clear and in the fifties with light northerlies, a high-stacked kettle of thirty or so turkey and black vultures soaring on the wind, and as the last disappeared, on the same course a female Cooper’s hawk orangy umber in the sun, “a tin flash in the sun-dazzle” (Pound), tilted past choppy wing beats and glide as though sliding on the air 

With no nevermind about what’s below


D. E. Steward mainly writes months with 416 of them to date. Most of them are published, as is much of his short poetry. Five volumes of his months came out in 2018 as Chroma.