"Photoshopped" & "SX-70 Redux"

William Doreski

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William Doreski’s poems “Photoshopped” and “SX-70 Redux” discuss the concept of our personal image of the world versus reality through the metaphor of photography. In “Photoshopped”, a narrator finds himself incapable of removing himself from tampered photographs, and thus legacies, of various writers. In “SX-70 Redux”, memory becomes altered and in a constant state of flux when Poaroid pictures are exposed to the elements.

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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.”


That snapshot of me talking
with T. S. Eliot is fake.
Also, that photo of me combing
Ezra Pound’s overwrought beard.
Also, the one of me lighting
Wallace Stevens’ bullish cigar.

Whoever forged these pictures
has a gnarly sense of humour.
Selling them as postcards is fraud.
Did you make them? Did you tuck
them in the bookshop knowing
they would publicly embarrass me?

You photoshopped these images
to illuminate the autumn dark
and render my life’s work foolish.
Why didn’t you depict me
attending to Marianne Moore
or rescuing Sylvia Plath

from her gas oven’s grisly maw?
The owner of the bookshop admits
he found the photos unlikely,
but displayed them by the register.
He has sold nearly all. I go limp
in the café and try to drown
in coffee the color of rawhide.

You will never apologize.
but pay for the coffee with a laugh.
Throw in a couple of scones,
the kind all famous old men
eat with their dentures clacking.

SX-70 Redux

Polaroid photos discolour
with age, their complex emulsions
yellowing and shedding  faces
of people who have since aged or died.
Those rootless faces go adrift
and snag in the autumn forest.

I see them shake  in the breeze
and regret having photographed
their original flesh-framed selves.
One or two of those snapshots
display  my own sour face
with its unwieldy gray expression.

Some feature your famous sneer.
A couple time-warp my father,
caught trimming a Christmas tree
forty years ago, when winter
still expressed itself in snowstorms
whose purity is no longer likely.

I could thrust my aluminum
ladder into the woods and rescue
a few of these ghostly faces,
but they’re only bits of vapour.
Chemicals decayed over years
and changed into other chemicals,

that no one has thought to study.
You don’t want me to bother
with these past-tense people,
even if some of them are us.
You want me to stop staring
up into the trees and return

to the hopeless task of raking
leaves from the gravel driveway.
Let those muddled faces drift off
wherever our exhausted souls go,
and let’s tire our present tense
with honest, if useless, labor.

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals. Instagram: @williamdoreski

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Additional reading

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Age of the Machine

PhotoshoppedThat snapshot of me talkingwith T. S. Eliot is fake.Also, that photo of me combingEzra Pound’s overwrought beard.Also, the one of me lightingWallace Stevens’ bullish cigar.‍Whoever forged these pictureshas a gnarly sense of humour.Selling them as postcards is fraud.Did you make them? Did you tuckthem in the bookshop knowingthey would publicly embarrass me?‍You photoshopped these imagesto illuminate the autumn darkand render my life’s work foolish.Why didn’t you depict meattending to Marianne Mooreor rescuing Sylvia Plath‍from her gas oven’s grisly maw?The owner of the bookshop admitshe found the photos unlikely,but displayed them by the register.He has sold nearly all. I go limpin the café and try to drownin coffee the color of rawhide.‍You will never apologize.but pay for the coffee with a laugh.Throw in a couple of scones,the kind all famous old meneat with their dentures clacking.‍SX-70 ReduxPolaroid photos discolourwith age, their complex emulsionsyellowing and peeling facesof people who have since aged or died.Those rootless faces go adriftand snag in the autumn forest.I see them shake in the breezeand regret having photographedtheir original flesh-framed selves.One or two of those snapshotsdisplay my own sour facewith its unwieldy gray expression.Some feature your famous sneer.A couple time-warp my father,caught trimming a Christmas treeforty years ago, when winterstill expressed itself in snowstormswhose purity is no longer likely.I could thrust my aluminumladder into the woods and rescuea few of these ghostly faces,but they’re only bits of vapour.Chemicals decayed over yearsand changed into other chemicals,that no one has thought to study.You don’t want me to botherwith these past-tense people,even if some of them are us.You want me to stop staringup into the trees and returnto the hopeless task of rakingleaves from the gravel driveway.Let those muddled faces drift offwherever our exhausted souls go,and let’s tire our present tensewith honest, if useless, labor.