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
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.
Each clean white box
is an empty time
bomb set to go on and
on before it is de-
fused in the bottomless
This short-lived listing of
ticks off all the wrong
itches in the sea-
son of the three-legged
over Tonga, tantric sex
in Reykjavík hot
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.
“Nobody” is safe
because it is a word of perverse
beauty, a corporeal
negation by which none
“Everyone” is safe
because it celebrates the loneliness
within the collective, the
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
all who are to
arrive from future undeveloped
negatives discovered in
some abandoned darkroom
me lying awake
amidst this room’s velvety
the soft corners
of a dreamless netherworld
while some grey fold
in the brain is half-
lit with a gnawing desolation
a remote itch
ifested as the tortured
a heavy barefoot
padding like judgement’s
heartbeat like mercy’s
groove on anyone’s
before the next
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
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.