"Cicada-like.", "Heirloom.", & "Let Me Show You All My Trinkets."

Mary Kelly

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Nostalgia is palpable in this series of poems by Mary Kelly, where a speaker reminisces on their girlish youth, eventually leading to what can only be considered inevitable realizations: trying to understand one’s body, the discomfort of one’s own existence, and musings about one’s mother.

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Yolk began as an electric conversation around a picnic table in Saint Henri Square.

Our scruffy pioneer and present prose editor had previously approached each of us with an idea, a vision: We would establish our own literary magazine in Montreal. And so it was, or so it would be. After that original encounter, eight individuals devoted to the word resolved that they would gather bi-weekly, on Sundays, and bring something new into this busy, manic world—something that might slow its spin down somewhat and cause its patronage to say: “You know what, it ain’t so bad, is it, Susan?”

We are undergraduate, graduate, and graduated students of writing. Some of us learn our craft formally from accomplished authors in seminar courses, and some of us learn by looking out the window of the world and onto the streets that sing below. Some of us learn from screaming squirrels, old curtains, departed grandfathers, and bowel movements. We learn from old lovers, long winters, imperfect mothers, and from the deep internet where a musical genius remains entombed.

Yolk is cold floors on Sabbath mornings, home-brewed ginger beer in the endless afternoon, and downpours of French-pressed coffee in assorted artisanal mugs. Our first official gathering was scheduled for a duration of two hours; most of us remained for six, departing only to attend to the summons of our own beckoning realities. Together, with time suspended, we talked endlessly of contributing something to disrupt Montreal’s literary ecosystem. Something unparalleled, something true.

But what? There was nothing to discuss. There was everything to discuss.

We volunteer our time, hounding some elusive beast composed of combustible words and works. We are hopeful, truly hopeful, that we can give something new, a new way, a new light, and that if we cannot, we might at least uphold the traditions of our predecessors, cast star-wide nets to capture their echoes. We are a thousand decisions. We are a sanctuary for the orphaned word, the solitary writer, the cereal-eating artist who yearns for company, for the comfort of a like mind; we sit together with them at foggy dawn, it rains a baptism, with our arms and hands intertwined, we form an umbrella—underneath, they scribble madly, the perfect picture.

Yolk in no way presumes to be superior to its contemporaries, but its contemporaries should not presume yolk to be anything other than loud—quite, quite loud. We are yippidy jazzed to address the oh-so-technicolorful magnificence of the human experience, but we are prepared also to address the ugliness, to stare at its wet, hairy snout and into its square depth and to roar in return at the things that yearn to devour our skin, beset our ethos, and dig graves in our own backyards.

There’s so much to say, there’s so much we don’t know, but together, with you, we can placate that ignorance, render it peaceful, tolerable, and perhaps even, fucking beautiful.

And Susan says, “Amen.”


Summers here devour me.
Sap nestles under my nails, 
I watch the children
at the concrete oxbow
peel back the layers
of a Rimu tree—
folding January between
the 17th and 18th year.

Tendrils of autumn
grab our ankles. The moon,
still too shy, cowers behind
the tree-line, so we say grace
beneath a swarm of street lights.
When the heat becomes devoid of
attention, our voices succumb
to the violent swell of humidity.

And while we wedge our
bodies back into the
ecosystem of Shirley Street,
I cannot help but air out
my distanced grievances
as the cicadas sing
to us one final


In April, I planted seeds to grow my own tomatoes. I was starved of my mother’s hand-painted terracotta pots. I craved the sweet aroma of tomatoes under the thick June sun. My hands became knotted amongst overgrown fruit. They stained my fingers like tobacco. 

It wasn’t just one lump. There were multiple, connected, like roots below the plants in my backyard. I was oblivious to the affair that displaced my parents’ marriage, how she snuck sickness into bed with her. The punchline was that she thought we wouldn’t notice the crooked smile that grew across her face, masking dimples that once blossomed like fuchsias in spring.

It was remarkable how loud those birds sang when I answered the phone. Perhaps they too were nervous about the nagging silence my mother had sown. Tomatoes nestled in my hands, I wondered how fertile my mother must have been to have grown these inside her.

Let Me Show You All My Trinkets.

The classroom was washed clean with a coat of eggshell paint, and I declared November to be a yellow month in the same way that mathematics was a green subject. It was a contentious debate, and I followed Jude as they took votes from each desk. An angst undulated through me, tracing the steps of the heat from that early summer. Each minute inside had robbed me of my ability to drag my feet across chests of grass. Once home, I grazed my knees on the pebbled concrete outside my bedroom window. My skin took a violent beating and I was met with the first pool of blood I would ever belong to.

The first boy to tell me he loved me did not mean it, although I was far from a worldly translator then. My sentences began and ended with the same intonation. So, when he finally placed his hands on my breasts, my throat rattled with excitement. Insects coiled beneath my ribs. I thought of my mother, who had only grown into herself at the age of 22. I counted to 22 on my fingers because I was certain I knew the life I would grow into. The boy, too, was good at hoisting up everything I felt certain of. Unlike myself, the boy would eat love for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I often found myself asking him to recite how love tastes. How does it settle in your stomach? Does it pair well with anything? How long until you can swim again after falling in love?

A girl in my class told me about the moment a local boy’s body surrendered to the hardened land, dead before his head even hit the earth. I pictured his neck, flaccid in the hands of some homeowners. I wondered if they still lived there with some kind of legacy carved into the spiraling roots of a tree. Once the summer had broken our skin, I could no longer recall how many syllables he was built from. The air was sour and my lips were wet, and I wanted to hear the girl tell me the story again, to hear her hold close a life that wedged itself into a year soon forgotten.

Spring is when I often miss the sound of the trains and the sight of a miscalculated brick ledge. On a previous night, a man had entered my bedroom and I burst at the seams. Now, I trickle with frustration, and I dream of the girl who swims with her friends and writes better than me. I began to pocket conversations on my commutes home, collecting sentences to be traded for something bigger. On hot days, the ocean nestles between my thighs. I cannot recall when I stopped picking my skin. Time matters here. My name reaches people faster and suddenly, the man is no longer in my bed. He is a weather pattern that breaks through the dull night. I feel him wash over me, although I am not even remotely clean. It has been a week since I called my mother; I am 24 now and my breasts sit like softened hillocks beneath a familiar sun.

Mary Kelly is a New Zealand-born writer residing in the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations (Vancouver). When Mary is not writing, she is often people-watching from her window with her cats. Her work has been featured in Vallum Magazine, New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, and Flexible Press, with a forthcoming publication in the Canadian Literature Journal.

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