J. J. Steinfeld, Featured Poet


Words walk down a ramp

a mind ramp, of course,

but a sturdy ramp all the same

disoriented models

first furtive, then fantastic

followed by absurd

deranged, halfhearted, wholehearted,

the succession seeming endless

it is a nonsensical progression

or is it

each word with its fancy shoes

a few barefoot

then words about destruction

and endings forgetful of beginnings

one after the other.

I have places to go

things to unearth

but the words on the ramp

keep moving

in tenacious language

in unrelenting wordfulness

and there is no one

to shout STOP

not yet, not now

maybe later

when the darkness becomes something else

and the memory of light returns

like a misspelled word

corrected by a slight breeze.


Immutable misdeeds and malleable sins

you think in a philosophical haze

drunk on a desire for meaning

more so near approaching endings

before you can even begin

to jot down the words

the most complicated

and the least complicated

of desires return

in the disguises of memories   

from nearly every day of waiting

a hoarse voice grumbling

This is the extent of your life

you sensing the smooth distinctions

between hopelessness and madness

then a memory of an early love

like an outtake from what

could have been a memorable film

had the actors been less timid

and the director more mournful

the hoarse voice becomes more so

the listener loses even the simple explanations

the night arrives on time

but the morning is much too distant.


When you find yourself

gone astray, a wrong turn,

a blunder of map-reading

at the periphery of Hell

then tripping forward

an accident of evasion

looking for the way out

touching smells, speaking shapes,

smelling sounds desperately

confusing you more

and more infernally

fearful of whom you’ll meet

needing someone to help

all your words and pictographs

more worthless

than worthlessness

than emptiness

than the void drained

even after emptiness

the personification of


you have read and studied

and scribbled blank pages

into word edifices

it is a lost chance, you sense,

perhaps even a last chance,

there is a difference

a difference larger

than between a mountain

and a molehill

or the rock or the stone

of Sisyphus

whom you met last time

you got lost.


Feeling sorry for your sorrowful self

for the sad fact that you are no one

of importance on this puzzling Earth,

on a rainy morning drenched

with damnation and much worse

you wonder if you were to be executed

never mind if a crime is there

or an evasion from God or self

or if the slightest transgression flickered

life is full of crimes imagined and well-defined

of evasions in abundance and multiplicity

and the proliferating of misdeeds

from the start of the last century

and into the first chunk of this one

which method would you chose:

electrocution or fatal injection

suffocation or hanging

even fancy firing squad

of celebrities or iconic figures,

one with a bulletless gun, of course—

all methods enhanced by world weariness

and the highfalutin delusions of being—

would your execution digitally recorded

whatever the method go viral on the internet

would the bored hurry to the website

and watch enthralled your extinction

like a species unnoticed before?


Even if you really believed

the world was about to end

would you act any differently

caught up as you are

in your routines

rituals and secret little

superstitions of survival.

Maybe, in desperation or the boredom

of a forthcoming ending,

knock on the door of the woman

across the hall from you

the one who rarely smiles

who once told you to go to hell

asked what had you really done

with your miserable excuse of a life.

But for reasons beyond deception

or spiritual certainty

knock you do, knock incessantly

and wait to see if she wants

to have a discussion of the afterlife

perhaps share a bottle of wine

or at the very least

deep kiss each other as if

there were no tomorrow.

About the contributor

Canadian poet, fiction writer, and playwright J. J. Steinfeld lives on Prince Edward Island, where he is patiently waiting for Godot’s arrival and a phone call from Kafka. While waiting, he has published 20 books, and over 50 of his one-act plays and a handful of full-length plays have been performed in Canada and the United States.

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