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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 5: October 2020
Micro-fiction: 182 words
By Stephen D. Gibson

Da Ponte


I love to write letters. Retired now, I write three a day. It’s an old-fashioned thing, I know. The phone, email, Twitter, Facebook, texting, all are better. I know, but I write letters. By hand.

I write to my friends. I write to Congress. I write to famous dictators. I write to the dead and I write to Santa. Their addresses are easy to guess. I write without the expectation of being read.

Then, of course, I get a letter back. Lorenzo da Ponte. (Google it, why don’t you?) And the letter is old, yellow. The script, fine old cursive. The stamp, priceless.

For months we write about Judaism, Catholicism, sex, Venice, the Muse, the Romance languages, Mozart, history, marriage to a younger woman, marriage to an older man, politics, Prague, opera, New York, Philadelphia, the grocery and book businesses, bankruptcy, academia, teaching, Columbia, becoming a citizen, and death.

Antique stamps earn me a small fortune.

Finally, I cannot resist. I visit the Calvary Cemetery in Queens. I stand at the foot of his grave.

Insulted, he stops writing me.



Publisher’s Note:

Lorenzo da Ponte (1749–1838) was originally buried in the cemetery of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, which was decommissioned in 1909. Remains of an unspecified number of folks were then transferred to Calvary Cemetery in Queens (established 1848), and some were re-interred in unmarked graves. While the exact location of da Ponte’s grave is unknown, a memorial marker stands in Calvary Cemetery in his honor.

See also For Mozart’s Librettist, a Queens Fanfare in The New York Times (21 October 1987).

Stephen D. Gibson
Issue 5, October 2020

studied writing at Purdue University and the University of Houston. His short fiction has appeared in The Southeast Review, Quarterly West, Story Quarterly, Western Humanities Review, The Citron Review, and elsewhere. It has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice and Best Microfiction once, and won an Associated Writing Programs Intro Award for Short Stories.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

With Wings and Trumpet, after Arturo Rodríguez’s Sin Título (from the series La Tempestad, 1998, oil on canvas) in Western Humanities Review (Summer 2016).

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