Destinations and Departures: Steven Mayoff

March 7, 2017




"Stylistically, I try to push the elasticity of language, sometimes in traditional forms such as the ghazal and the pantoum, sometimes in forms where language becomes a deconstructed landscape, but at all times I am looking for the inner truth of the word to lead the way."


We do notice these elements in Steven’s work, and we also notice other things. ZVONA i NARI sits on the Istrian coast, a “stone’s throw” from the blue Adriatic and its varied shoreline, from limestone sharp enough to slice a foot to pebbles worn smooth over the millennia—but never sand. Of course there’s the occasional piece of debris that floats over from Venezia, usually an expensive sandal thrown from a cruise ship in a moment of ecstasy, then carved by storm waves into the equivalent of foam driftwood.


So we pay very careful attention to polished lines such as "till the dice smooth down to sugar cubes", or the fact that the author has been published by Turnstone Press, or the simple biographical note about living on the coast of Prince Edward Island near a salt-water river...


And with this, ZiN Daily kicks off a new coast-matching project, where we look to find contour pairings to confirm what we already know—that any expanse of water can be bridged if we look closely enough for resemblances.


Visual evidence to follow.




Destinations And Departures


That point where the road starts

to bend will gradually mutate

into  endless paradigms: the from

and the to, the wait and the with.


To bend is to gradually mutate

one’s expectations for negotiating

this to that, waiting for those with

similar coordinates to simplify


one’s expectations for negotiating.

And yet we are all destined to depart

from our similar coordinates, to simplify,

to overhaul desire’s tangled machinery.


Oh yes, we are all destined to depart.

Such devout snakes and ladders might

overhaul desire’s tangled machinery

till the dice smooth down to sugar cubes.


Such devout snakes and ladders frighten

our baser sensibilities, our rawest instincts.

Still, the dice smooth down. Two sugar cubes

roll like bones and come up Dead Eyes.


Our baser sensibilities, our rawest instincts

fall away when giving becomes invisible,

roll like bones. “Come on up, Dead Eyes,

and see me sometime as I truly am.”


When giving becomes invisible

it will form endless paradigms

to see (somewhere past “me time”)

that point where the road starts.




Duck Middle Woman



Strong light streaked the window. You

looked up from the laptop. Ducks


on the river, a mother and seven little ones

trailing behind. The sun-washed


corner of glass faded into blue sky, yellowing

branches before the last duckling


disappeared behind the rising bank, before

you returned to editing your weekly


quota of micro-loans. The disconnect between

the natural world and our creature


comforts revealed an invisible season rippling

the shore’s muddy red lip.




Upstairs in my office the drawn curtains showed

a slender gap. Suggesting a secret


portal to an alternate privacy. Your instant

message at the corner of my screen


asked: what is a duck middle woman? This

from your last loan of the day: an old


woman in Taiwan trying to start a business.

I wanted to type, such silent


toothless laughter and duct-taped flip-flops.

I wanted my imagination to defend


its privacy against the blinking curser’s

intolerable expectations.




Turkey dogs - skewered on old untwisted

wire hangers - split and bubbled


over the fire pit. We did not want to think

about her flip-flops in the walk-in


closet upstairs with our clothes on brightly

coloured plastic hangers. We did


not want to look at the empty window behind

us. We only wanted to huddle


together in the natural order of a dying fire

and dusk painting a stripe


of cold light on the river.




Ticking Boxes


Each clean white box

is an empty time


bomb set to go on and

on before it is de-


fused in the bottomless

quicksand bucket.


This short-lived listing of

life-long deferrals


ticks off all the wrong

itches in the sea-


son of the three-legged

riddle. Ballooning


over Tonga, tantric sex

            in Reykjavík hot


springs, eat-pray-loving

            one’s way across a


virtual realty of check,

            check, check points. 


            Better to inflame your

own unboxed rebellion with


a firecracker salvo in the

unmapped matrix of dragon-lit


alleys where crossed arms

may not always seem welcoming but


neither do they condemn.



Safe Words


“Nobody” is safe

because it is a word of perverse

beauty, a corporeal

negation by which none

are offended.


“Everyone” is safe

because it celebrates the loneliness

within the collective, the

individual withering

to be free.


“Foundation” is safe

because it is a word suggesting

we were never lost

to begin with, a bedrock

to lull the oft dreamt



“Progress” is safe

because it sanctions the march

that divides one era

from another, one’s regenerated

innocence from its phantom  

limb of memory loss.


There is safety in numbing

the borders between “us”

and “peace”, “war” and “them”


all in the name of enabling

this bondage game

of perpetual emotion.



sleep is god


eluding you and me and

            all who came before

us and

                        all who are to

arrive from future undeveloped


      negatives discovered in

some abandoned darkroom




me lying awake

amidst this room’s velvety

wine contours


            the soft corners

   of a dreamless netherworld

while some grey fold

in the brain is half-


lit with a gnawing desolation 

            a remote itch


            for something

                        to begin




you man-

      ifested as the tortured

floorboards whimpering


above me 

a heavy barefoot

      padding like judgement’s


heartbeat like mercy’s



groove on anyone’s

perpetual-motion turntable 


before the next

                 disc drops




far removed from

god’s midnight garden we

blink at the irradiated


numbers winking back


            at us telling us

                        of a time when


we were blessed with a deeper

            sense of oblivion

                          rather than the one


                        eradicating stars

beyond this

            fluttering curtain


the one that is now evolving from

   a pigment of raw  

diamond spillage into


            an eggshell wash of impulse



 Steven Mayoff was born and raised in Montreal and has lived on rural Prince Edward Island since 2001. His fiction and poetry has appeared in literary journals across Canada and the U.S. and in Ireland, Algeria, France and Wales. Steven has published two books of fiction: the story collection Fatted Calf Blues (Turnstone Press, 2009) and the novel Our Lady Of Steerage (Bunim & Bannigan, 2015). Upcoming is a poetry collection Swinging Between Water And Stone to be published by Guernica Editions in 2019. 


All photos are credited to Thelma Phillips.








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ISSN 2459-9379

Editors: Natalija Grgorinić, Ljubomir Grgorinić Rađen & Ognjen Rađen


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