Friday, March 21, 2008

Five themed poems by J.J. Steinfeld

Five poems
by J.J. Steinfeld
Theme: Mirth and Madness


“I believe in mirth and madness,”
an average-sized man with an oddly shaped gun says
punctuating his statement with a remarkable somersault
to a height that makes one pause and wonder.
What is the world record for somersault height?
the bystanders want to ask about this capability
the incredible achievement seen with their own eyes
but the oddly shaped gun
like an approaching wild snarling dog
dictates the reality
the path of language
and thought and fear,
however, moreover, perhaps
in another even less perfect world
for this world has indeed achieved imperfection
the somersaulting man would shoot the wild snarling dog
and the bystanders would applaud
and history would judge and misjudge
memory would form and fold its arms
with a confidence that is firmer than truth
but mirth and madness are not like that
and perfection and imperfection
are merely words in this world
but the bullet from the oddly shaped gun
and the bite from the wild snarling dog
leave one wondering
about history and memory
and most of all, pain
and the repercussions of pain.



Heaven is forgetfulness
Hell is full of mnemonic devices
ho-hum, ho-hum,
what has meaning anymore
(not that now is any more tattered
ethically, morally, or monetarily
than say, a hundred or a thousand years ago
except that I am caught here now
have a headache and backache and toothache
and I might mention, a touch of a soul ache
all conspiring to undermine my mind).
I return to my personal lamentation:
what has meaning anymore
except piles of money
threats of death
and a blissfulness that is seen
on the faces of patrons
in fancy restaurants
and on a wino's mid-morning smile.
Surely I exaggerate and misdiagnose and misunderstand
but I walk incessantly
rarely take medication, drink in borderline moderation,
and I pass those with pockets bulging with money
those with fear traipsing across their faces
those with smiles from succulent food
or cheap wine.
Yes, there is holiness in history
and on the street
but holiness is an accident
I argue through my aches and observations
a wrong turn when the light and directions are bad
and you mishear or fail to hear the warnings.



On one of those early television shows for kids
amusing, benign, costumed host
small-screen, colourless
you heard the word absurd
scripted or adult frustration, you didn’t know
so young, you sidestepping child-talk
half-smiling, laughing at nonexistent jokes
and for a week it became your favourite word
your teacher amused at first, then appalled
absurd this, absurd that
how you liked to spell absurd, a-b-z-u-r-d
on the blackboard, in scribblers, chalk on the sidewalk
how you named your first puppy Abzurd
and when that dog died
a week before your fourteenth birthday
you went into your room
and never came out.



I am not this
you are not that
the dog said to the cat
or so it sounded
the TV was blaring
there was a pounding at the door
and memory was especially loud
louder than blaring and pounding
but I did my best to listen
to the conversation so philosophical and engaging.
I want for nothing
you have numerous desires
the cat said to the dog…
I ran upstairs to get my tape recorder
to record this intriguing dialogue
between dog and cat
but by the time I returned
the conversation was over.



somewhere, I sense, don’t ask me why,
there is a person who during the course of a life
wrote exactly one poem
not too long or too short
one sensibly proportioned poem
and didn’t submit it anywhere
looked at the words
perhaps held the sheet of paper
against a cheek
or impetuously
kissed the paper
and thought, would not dare say,
the only poem of my life
nothing more to say,
and that person
started to laugh
and I would guess
is laughing still

Author bio:

Fiction writer, poet, and playwright J. J. Steinfeld lives in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. He has published a novel, Our Hero in the Cradle of Confederation (Pottersfield Press), nine short story collections, the previous three by Gaspereau Press — Should the Word Hell Be Capitalized?, Anton Chekhov Was Never in Charlottetown, and Would You Hide Me? — and a poetry collection, An Affection for Precipices (Serengeti Press). His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and periodicals internationally, and over thirty of his one-act and full-length plays have been performed in Canada and the United States.

Editor's note:

BUT MIRTH AND MADNESS ARE NOT LIKE THAT was first published in MO: Writings from the River; SURELY I EXAGGERATE AND MISDIAGNOSE AND MISUNDERSTAND was first published in Brooklyn Review; THE ABSURD BOY AND HIS DOG, ABZURD originally appeared in Yalla Zine; EAVESDROPPING first appeared in Grimm Magazine; and POETIC LAUGHTER was initially published in Twaddle Magazine.

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