In Transit: "Friction"

Kayla Penteliuk

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Kayla Penteliuk's In Transit poem "Friction" captures the essence of Montreal's metro system. Although she details certain stations and draws upon how each resonate with her in a specific way, Penteliuk comes to the final conclusion that it is through the metro system as a whole that she feels not only close to the city, but the people within it.

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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 metro was the reason I came.

Ripped myself,
still tender,
still growing,
from the prairies in spring
to rustle my feet in the forest bed of Lionel-Groulx.

If I trace the coloured lines
gingerly with my fingertips
I find vestiges of myself there
wedged between the blue plastic seats.
I recollect myself in shards,
like Charlevoix
in sprawling stained glass.

I recall the warmth of paper and ink;
that first pressed ticket
in still shaking palms.
I disembark again
and again -
I can still remember  the two of us
freshly tattooed
laughing on a street corner near Beaubien.

The snow is heavier here.
The air is somehow lighter.
I find the most solitude
at Georges-Vanier
in the cozy silence of the concrete.
Brutalism looks lovely on me.

Under Angrignon archways,
steady on the platform,
I wear my transience
like a beatific coat
and I love that in my loneliness,
I am never fully alone.

But I can’t adjust to the pressure.
Forceful wind -
a gasp out of my chest.
Instead of catching my breath,
I grasp the end of sentences
shouted over the hum

Millions of bodies
united by friction. 

Kayla Penteliuk rode the metro for the first time ten years ago and has been obsessed with it ever since. She grew up on the Saskatchewan prairies, but now lives in Montreal with her partner and two cats. She is currently pursuing her PhD in English Lit at McGill. When she isn’t researching witchcraft for her dissertation, you can find her writing songs, playing guitar, and cultivating her balcony garden. IG: @kaylapenteliuk


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Additional reading

Sicilian Blue

Age of the Machine

Beyond Control