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  • Steven Mayoff

Destinations and Departures: Steven Mayoff

"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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ZiN Daily is published by ZVONA i NARI, Cultural Production Cooperative

Vrčevan 32, 52204 Ližnjan, Istria, Croatia

OIB 73342230946

ISSN 2459-9379


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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