:: Article

Shawnee Gauntlet

By D.E. Steward.

Shawnee Gauntlet

We lose phosphenes in adolescence but reputedly they come back not long before we die

And when small and on foot, invited to get on behind the saddle of someone who comes along on a horse, enjoying the breadth of the horse’s damp rump, the conversation, the height and motion of the ride

Once that happened to many kids, but now not at all in the cosmopolitan world

Light like candles in Halloween pumpkins but thin and vivid as in the silver dimness of a daguerreotype

Watercolor transparent, aquarelle

The clear light blues and pale greens

Of the two dimensions of the paper

Shape literally as described with shadows and physical perspective implied

And all of it is possible in words

Baltic, myrtle, bayberry gray, celadon, light pale bluish green

Yellow to green to blue

Fix to light mossy peapod green

To aquarelle transparency

Approaching porraceous

In the way that a leek goes from rooted upside-down white bulb to almost agave-stiff rich oignon to oinyon through its leaves approaching intense foliage green

As Mediterraneans use lemons, South Americans use limes

Masaccio, van Eyck, Piero, Witz, fundamental masters in the rich years after 1400, outer shadows illuminating space, color perspective, tromp l’oeil ability to render clothes, metal, wood

Everything Saint-Saëns wrote sounds like Le Carnaval des animaux

La musique pure

He died falling off a bicycle in Algeria

Nobody can remember the words to Marie but we all sing it anyway when little Marie is around because she is so pleased by the attention

Try to verify Derrida that said writing is to speech as China is to Europe

It may be possible that we, now, know too much about the world and that we suffocate it and ourselves in awareness of it

But many, many live in a state of crucial ignorance

And everywhere remarkable numbers of people do not even know where they are

Pettiness becomes lunacy in the face of ultimates and the awareness of universals

And in the reluctance of inevitablity

Stalks, husks, leaves and snedders of any sort, and bark, then sucking pebbles, swallowing earth, drinking anything if there are no potables left

Initially a heightened intensity of perception, but then people become quiet, extremely quiet, after some days of no food at all and then readily curl up on the ground to die

Anorexic runners run incommunicado thinking about death (their own)

Unimaginable that any other country could ever raise both obesity and anorexia to significant national problems

Generally we either deify animals or abuse them

A dog’s singular face peering through the fence of a city pound haunts

Everything is involved in either means or ends, so be careful

Clear late-September mornings here are like being in the mountains

The taste of Concord grapes, the sound of cicadas

The giant friendliness of big young dogs

The immense open sky fields of western France

Saintes in Charente-Maritime, between Cognac and La Rochelle, lies within its province in serenity and peace, and there are half a hundred cities as fine in France

At Lascaux the artists may well have painted with pipettes

Their images are as assertive of their time as the Vertical Assembly Building and Manhattan’s skyline are of ours

Le Menec at Carnac (Morbihan), one thousand ninety-nine menirs each up to six meters tall aligned in an avenue twelve hundred meters long with more menhirs arranged semi-circularly at each end

Four thousand years between Lascaux and the first great Megalithic stones at Carnac

There are of course multitudes of environment-altering arrays in the twenty-first century world

It is raining after weeks of dry weather

Young mothers paranoid about dangerous foreign substances in the sandbox demand new sand regularly

“The very common sense of white Americans has a tinge of helplessness in it, and deep fear of what might be if they were not commonsensical” – D. H. Lawrence

And geography is to Americans as baseball is to Europeans

Cutting hotline with Chiquita Banana stickers on our hardhats with joy in our boundless energy and expertise, we charged those steep canyon brush fires

Exhilarated with the whining speed of our bayberry green hotshot crew trucks, as though they too were so much alive

California reseda

From the powdery dry reseda brush, sheer brilliance of the painted locusts whirring in the sun, shiny black lacquer, lemon yellow, red

Celadon tint is even paler than tourmaline, something like celandine green

Overheard at international arrivals, EWR, “Vous avez votre visa pour la Californie?”

In parody of Isadora Duncan, his Nikes’ untied laces began to wind around one bicycle pedal’s shaft and brought him down

Sorry is as sorry does

The pianist was superb, only in her twenties but almost like an Annie Fischer in her range

Maybe the earliest conventions of language notation were artists’ color-coded ideograms, and if so they came before dead clay cuneiform

Magnificent frigatebirds, Fregata magnificens, in profusion on the eastern coast of Falcón

Trevor Pinnock thumps away, the Williamsburg of music

Hills passed in the dark without seeing them

Brueghel, as immediate as the tableau of one’s own childhood

We carry our minds on top of our trunks like a saucer

And he smokes cigarettes defiantly as though his life depended on it

Nabokov’s definition holds up perfectly, “A philistine is a full-grown person whose interests are of a material and commonplace nature, and whose mentality is formed of the stock ideas and conventional ideals of his or her group and time”

Shawnee gauntlets were clubs and tomahawks on a common line

Almost no one made it, but three Elizabethan sailors on their way through America were never forced to run one, were feted and immediately pushed ahead to the next town

The three had been stranded near what’s now Tampico and walked off to upper Nova Scotia in 1568 and 1569 and made it from there to London on a French ship, all nearly two decades before Roanoke Island and forty years before the Jamestown Colony

They saw it, possibly the first not born here to have seen it

The woman and her two men approached the edge of the lake, tested the ice, retreated, grouped and talked before walking off in a Jules et Jim tableau

TV’s montage of vapid faces and faintly erotic leers taint all of us

In each generation enough seem to come to believe that art is more important than moneycraft to keep things going, but then in ours with Jeff Koonses galore art is exclusively moneycraft

Circumstance calls it all, helped by awareness and tenacity

The book reads that way

D.E. Steward is creeping up on a thousand publications and way beyond what he hoped to accomplish as an independent writer, never having had a pedestrian job since college, and never having published anything he’s ashamed of. He’s never studied writing, he didn’t even major in English, the only thing he’s ever taught is swimming, and he tries to feed respect for the printed and pixelled word.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, March 5th, 2017.