Dialogue learned through dictation

Ren Pike

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“Dialogue learned through dictation” takes the reader by the hand and navigates a neighbourhood that the speaker considers home. Through airtight images and succinct storytelling, Ren Pike analyzes how a heightened security state only makes neighbours feel less secure. Revealed through unwelcome presences and interrupted tranquility is a deeply unsettling question: are we ever safe?

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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.”

The cops keep circling. First the chop-chop-chop.
Then the shadow.
Getting closer. Turning.
Shrinking, sound repetering.
I mouth a line learned
in middle school French: Tu me menaces?

Here, the lawns are patchy.
Rusted cars and duct-taped rents.
Here, everyone says hello.
I nod to a little girl on her father's shoulders.
An older couple inches up the path.
Three men, heads angled, discuss cricket.
They wave as I pass. And I reply.

When the whirring intensifies, only the very young look up.
The rest of us slip into a lower gear. A collective hitch.
Uneasy eyes seek the runner among us.

Through conifers in the park.
In backyards and school yards.
Over fences weathered with frantic traffic.

Caught mid-field, a husk of hare. Coats ragged.
Go all-in on camouflage.

Ren Pike grew up in Newfoundland. Through sheer luck, she was born into a family who understood the exceptional value of a library card. Her work has appeared in Abridged, Riddle Fence, and Cutbow Quarterly.

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