person J. J. Steinfeld, three poems

Canadian fiction writer, poet, and playwright J. J. Steinfeld is the author of eighteen books, including Would You Hide Me? (Stories, Gaspereau Press, 2003), Misshapenness (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions, 2009), Identity Dreams and Memory Sounds (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions, 2014), Madhouses in Heaven, Castles in Hell (Stories, Ekstasis Editions, 2015), An Unauthorized Biography of Being (Stories, Ekstasis Editions, 2016), and Absurdity, Woe Is Me, Glory Be (Poetry, Guernica Editions, 2017). His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and periodicals internationally, and over fifty of his one-act plays and a handful of full-length plays have been performed in Canada and the United States.


The Frightened Magician’s Final Performance

There at the front of the stage
a frightened magician begins to perform
one more anxious trick
the night has been long and disappointing
the tricks and trickery
getting more convoluted
than an inveterate swindler
reminiscing over a lifetime
of seeking the beauty of deception.

I will make a ghost appear
and offer solace and consolation
I will make a ghost take earthly form
and offer a million sweet proofs,
the frightened magician says,
sweat on his straining brow
knowing the weight of last chances—
in the midst of the most sonorous
abracadabra words I’d ever heard
he drops dead and hits the floor
like a discarded prop
or a perfect clattering curse.

Everyone in the audience
goes home with a new memory
and something to talk about
for at least a day or two.

first published online in The Furious Gazelle


Two Bewildered Elephants Colliding

The photographer collapsed
as his camera from another age
floated upward slowly
like a bird that has not yet learned
fear or evasive movements.
No one standing in the vicinity
(and there were hundreds
even though I stopped counting
at seventy-five)
knew what the photographer
had photographed or why
he was now on the sidewalk
testimony to abstraction
and defeat or worse.
Then there was a loud sound
two bewildered elephants colliding
followed by recriminations
and cursing that made
all the humans blush
and not one questioned
why the larger of the two
colliding elephants had
perfect diction and the other
a camera wrapped in its trunk
that was worth ten times
the fallen photographer’s
now forgotten camera.
I never knew this street corner
to be so eventful or busy
but the world does seem
to be twisting into new
shapes and directions
climate change or manipulation
by higher intelligences
from other galaxies
I’m not sure exactly what
but I’ll leave the theorizing
to the high-paid scientists
and twice-blessed prophets.

first published online in The Rusty Toque



My thoughts and silence and afternoon walk
were broken by a city-wandering animal
its countenance quite unusual—
something between a mythic creature
in a watercolour in a child’s picture book
from the turn of the last century
and a garden-variety leopard—
this animal spoke to me with a false accent
that did not ring true, much too affected,
syntax and grammar, however, were impeccable
even layered with wisdom and insight
but the accent was out-of-place
incongruous as a meteor-showered night

coincidentally, lately I had been keeping track
in meticulous detail, sheet after sheet,
of starts false, dreams false,
fanciful and artful falsifications
the contours of falsity
the very nature of falsity
the words false and falsity
as cunning and malformed
as contrived death masks

but I must have sounded false to the unusual animal
who I did appreciate was courteous and polite
to a fault that wasn’t in the least false.

first published in Zymbol


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