J. J. Steinfeld

A Minor Character, At That

Arms full of parcels
you stumble slightly
walking in a shopper’s paradise
store after store
like the rings of an ancient tree
but all is not well
in this concrete forest paradise
because all of a sudden
like detecting sickness or failure
you sense you are a character
in someone else’s absurd play
and a minor character, at that,
awkward, confused, expendable
about to be removed or replaced.

You start to fight back
with words and gestures
like a creature frenzied
and longing to be tremendous
pleading for then demanding
to be a larger character
more of something else
more of what you imagine
to be a major character’s due.

The script evaporates
you drop your parcels
you forget your name
and your destination
then you cease to be
like an unnamed dinosaur
or a long-ago fallen tree.


Cloud-Shaped Words and Fragments of Memory

words float above me
shaped out of clouds
and fragments of memory:
capture the uncapturable
alter the unalterable

I’m gripped by puzzlement
the words close to authentic
and their shapes are sorrowful
yet imposing and unassailable

assail the unassailable
imagine the unimaginable
presented in darker colours
and sterner shapes
I am even more puzzled
but I begin to see
a trap in the words
and my half-hearted compliance

silence the unsilenceable
define the undefinable
I start to run fast as fear
from the cloud-shaped words
and fragments of memory
until I leave the ground
the flightless able to fly


J. J. Steinfeld [Author photo - Brenda Whiteway]Canadian fiction writer, poet, 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 eighteen books, including 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 periodicals and anthologies 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.

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