D.E. Steward

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With the carbon already out there

Sea walls, planning for population and facilities shift from flood plains and coastal tracts that tempt inundation

Full infrastructure adaptation wherever flooding is imminent

Cooling centers in North America and Pacific and South Asia south of the thirty-fourth parallel, much of Latin America, the Indian subcontinent, much of Africa and Australia

Complicated protocols for inevitable pandemics of lethal viruses

Networked planning for immense refugee quandaries and accompanying regional and national conflicts

Ready for viability collapse (a necessary new term) and so physical relocation for many

A present model being the procedures for coping with desert locust plagues in East Africa, in other words do nothing 

Promote social and political awareness and acceptance of ineluctable accumulation of crises on crisis

Drastically fewer babies – eventually governments could even use population controls

Flexible attitudes toward the presently unknown and unpredicted feedback manifestations from the clustering crises

An extreme and new reality very soon now  

Far beyond the nature of the way those in charge at Izumo-taisha, the ancient temple complex at the limits of far southwestern Honshu, have engaged their continuity’s future

Off a rural train out to Izumo from Matsue, in pidgin conversation with three thatchers at work on an outer building and one reached down to hand me a few small fire-hardened wooden nails in a princely gesture

Izumo’s shrines freshly rebuilt every twenty years for thirteen hundred centuries now, with cypress from trees cultivated for over three thousand years

As has been too at the seventh century Grand Ise Shrine on Honshu’s other coast

Wood withdrawn and replaced taken to other temple sites to be reused

Accepting of circumstance, in thoughtful projection

Close by, the big city readies for the flooding of lower Manhattan by filling in the East River Park for a higher sea wall

The pink muhly and miscanthus grass under the Williamsburg Bridge to be buried

Pragmatically, believe established facts and attempt the reasonable

Water the measure, its level, flow, salinity

Its terrible cold impact petrifies

So fast to overwhelm

In eerie apparent malevolent intent

Waves cresting high as the mizzen’s spreader, breaking over the deck in stinging spray

Scuppers submerged, flooded cowl ventilators, surges swamping the hatches and cascading below deck

Pending disaster

One big one after another

Terrifying and shuddering pitch and yaw

The floundering rolls

Come around into the gale, batten down to wait out an indefinite immediate future

Unsure whether mayday or not

Litter-swelled surges ashore

Calf deep flush of streets from the gutters then down subway entrances, steps rapid cascading like salmon ladders, platforms awash, tracks and tunnels quickly flooded

Wires shorted out and down

All illumination going fast

Floating garbage and trash, slippery diesel oil stink and rampant sewerage stench 

Cars, trucks, buses abandoned, strewn, blocking passages, streets and expressways

Headlong tsunami effect pushing well inland

Rapid flooding far up river valley creeks and flats

Storm surge up bays and inlets, all of it mud brown carbon heavy dense ponderously thick with clogging trash

Water relentlessly rising from unabatingly torrential rain

Furtherance surges and ebbs quickly eroding foundations and fundaments          

General inundation far inland

As from rivers and as widespread as the tide rush and the rivers’ downstream flow extend

The measure and reach of destruction beyond human experience

Uncontrolled water


Risen and ineluctably rising more  

“Water rises up out of hilltops, the weight / of rock on aquifer... the logical miracle” (John Kinsella)

Underground channels, freshets, tunnels, conduits overwhelmed, popping manhole covers with all systems going dead below

Urban infrastructures thoroughly immobilized

The flooded cities going quiet in the surge

Into A. R. Ammons’ far end of the dark

Toward embittered Maurice Blanchot’s night beyond the night

Bridges upstream floated off their piers

Flooding downriver rush with currents of terrifying velocity  

Undercutting banks and shorelines, new passages forced across old meanders

Levees and berms washed away, gone

River islands awash

Trees uprooted, floating off 

Erasing what had been

Open toward the littoral

Where hurricane, northeaster, North Sea gale, typhoon, cyclone, temblor all ocean-sourced push storm surges inland

Bomb cyclones, tornados, momentous rainfalls and snow melt river flooding 

Lifting structures to become debris

With erratic catastrophic windstorms, floods, wildfires and extreme heat not yet comprehensible to us

Recognition of potential disaster dulled by the hubris of technology arrogance 

The new Hong Kong to Macau bridge-causeway dares fifty-five kilometers of open sea

A future of water

Or the lack thereof

The changes

Still, the scoffing guffaws and sarcastic ridicule

Unprecedented weather and occurrences of disaster flippantly disallowed

“mare’s-tails of bleached speech” (Ammons)

Only with Australia’s 2020 fire disaster, do the deniers start to go closemouthed

Deniers soon to be twenty-first century solitary Japanese infantrymen on islands in the Philippines who after the Second World War kept turning up for years

In this new world disorder, we are alone without even the relief of sharing the emptiness of time passing

Banks of white sound

Like the penetrating tang of locust sugar lemon marmalade

Like the slapping rattle of aluminum extension ladders lifted and carried

“A terrible solitude surrounds all beings who / confront mortality…. death / terrifies us into silence” (Louise Glück)

As art when it emerges from the particulars, our reason easily ignores the obvious

The Brahmaputra Delta going into perpetual flooding 

Manila, Miami, Manhattan, Mumbai perhaps even sooner

Incrementally but as lived from singular points in time and place readily disallowed

Even with events always closer to the most recent

“the events a stick makes / coming down a / brook… the salience” (Ammons)

A quarter of the forty million Californians live now in high-risk fire areas

California’s and Oregon’s often destructive downpours are from strange vertical atmospheric rivers flushing in off the Pacific

“Once the earth decides to have no memory / time seems in a way meaningless” (Glück)

Kicking through the fresh burn, checking for embers and flareups, boulders still warm and stones scorched, manzanita, black oak and madrone to charcoal and ashes 

The strange nakedness of red brown burned over soil

The finality of the newly flooded, the inexorably inundated

The emptiness

People gone from those places

Inland or away

With this happening we shall be left


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 in 2018 as Chroma.