Ruth Steinberg’s second full-length collection of poetry, A Step in Time roots readers in specific details and images that marry the author’s past with the present, making everything come alive in the moment at hand. Spanning locations as varied as her favorite seat at Artie’s Deli, her house growing up, Vienna before her family fled during World War II, Colorado, and a recent trip to Greece, the poet deftly moves from place to place.
Throughout the collection, Steinberg reveals her skill at description and her love of double meanings. In the poem “Winter Arabesque,” she trains her focus on “The hungry deer, / en pointe on delicate hind legs” that “leap / to reach the few remaining leaves, imprint / their steps on the new snow.” In “Passing Through,” the men “shrug into dark overcoats.” The poet uses the language of card playing to reveal difficulties in her family’s relationship in “Bridge Partners.” In between his wife and mother, the author’s father “shuffled” while “his mother took all the tricks” and his wife “dealt the hands.”
While the specifics in Steinberg’s poems consistently engage readers, the poems too often end in summary, making it seem that the poet is holding back emotionally. In “Table Manners,” when the waitress at the speaker’s favorite deli isn’t there to treat her as a regular, she ends the poem, “The coffee, when it arrives, / is lukewarm.” Steinberg’s use of descriptive language proves that it’s possible for her to push beyond surface interpretations and choose conclusions that are not as expected.
Nonetheless, A Step in Time easily carries readers to worlds beyond their own. This is a perfect collection for beginning readers of poetry and those who prefer poetry that is straightforward in its message.
Also available as an ebook.