"Mr. Rundle stalks me." & "Hemlock."

Denbeigh Whitmarsh

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Denbeigh Whitmarsh's work serves as a cultural milieu between the rural and the urban.

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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.”

Mr. Rundle stalks me.

Sunlight is burning holes through
The black field trees
Bringing your memory back to me 
Swirling cyan-evergreen-gold-purple paint
Or Amber dripping viscous from my bed

Running alone, it isn’t even close
To home
The sun dying, crop-fields rising.
Still striking full sole on these filthy roads 
Going nowhere 
And coming back. 
 
Memories of thrush-filled creeks 
Throwing rocks at wishes 
And pennies at the brick wall
That kept us shut.
Already knowing how we’d fall
 
Laying lies upon the grass
And stumbling over dropped branches 
You couldn’t keep up 
And I knew you weren’t for keeps
 
My brother caught you 
In his steel-toed work boots
You were looking back through the boughs 
And I ran away from the scene 
 
And all this time I thought it was love
Who ran away from me.
 
And now I’m lying here with John 
He isn’t Deare, 
He isn’t green, and 
He’s buried six feet under to my left.
His corpse is long since rotted through,
And coyotes scrounged the horse’s flesh
 
Look what happens when you 
Leave me to my head. 
 
Sometimes I wonder why mother
Gave us guts of lead. 
Pushed us past the fence.
 
She knew I’d fall, again
And again
And then come back
And all this time I thought it was love
 
Look what happens when you leave me
With John,
The dirt,
And mother in
My head.


Hemlock.

Lying in bed, all alone
And the sound of the fridge hits head hard.
The starchy blankets catch on dry skin,
The little chunks of dirt beneath the belly,
Deposited on the mattress by your feet.

Do I ever sleep?
Sirens of an ambulance croon,
I hear the neighbours cackle.
I wonder where the coyotes are,
And him, home.

Where flew the desperate late-night bellows,
Dame Holstein’s hemmed-in labour?
Wish I could hear the shallow creak
Of my sister’s hemlock bed-frame as she turns,
Or hear my blonde-haired brother cry out in his dreams,
The jingle of the dog collar as he collapses on the floor, spent.
But once again I only hear the silence and the city-sirens’ screams.

Denbeigh is a young woman from rural Canada who grew up in the woods and then experienced immense culture shock coming to Montreal. Much of her poetry tries to decipher the tangle of roots she still has connected to nature and her halcyon childhood. She also grapples with the paradox of exile, as she tries to reconcile the comfort of life in a small town with the damaging aspects of her redneck culture, and with the hypocrisy of the big city.

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Additional reading

august

Sicilian Blue

Mr. Rundle stalks me.Sunlight is burning holes throughThe black field treesBringing your memory back to me Swirling cyan-evergreen-gold-purple paint Or Amber dripping viscous from my bedRunning alone, it isn’t even closeTo homeThe sun dying, crop-fields rising.Still striking full sole on these filthy roads Going nowhere And coming back. Memories of thrush-filled creeks Throwing rocks at wishes And pennies at the brick wallThat kept us shut. Already knowing how we’d fall Laying lies upon the grassAnd stumbling over dropped branches You couldn’t keep up And I knew you weren’t for keeps My brother caught you In his steel-toed work bootsYou were looking back through the boughs And I ran away from the scene And all this time I thought it was loveWho ran away from me. And now I’m lying here with John He isn’t Deare, He isn’t green, and He’s buried six feet under to my left.His corpse is long since rotted through,And coyotes scrounged the horse’s flesh Look what happens when you Leave me to my head. Sometimes I wonder why motherGave us guts of lead. Pushed us past the fence. She knew I’d fall, againAnd againAnd then come backAnd all this time I thought it was love Look what happens when you leave meWith John, The dirt, And mother inMy head. ‍‍Hemlock.‍Lying in bed, all aloneAnd the sound of the fridge hits head hard. The starchy blankets catch on dry skin,The little chunks of dirt beneath the belly, Deposited on the mattress by your feet. Do I ever sleep? Sirens of an ambulance croon,I hear the neighbours cackle.I wonder where the coyotes are,And him, home. Where flew the desperate late-night bellows,Dame Holstein’s hemmed-in labour?Wish I could hear the shallow creak Of my sister’s hemlock bed-frame as she turns, Or hear my blonde-haired brother cry out in his dreams,The jingle of the dog collar as he collapses on the floor, spent. But once again I only hear the silence and the city-sirens’ screams.