"Pont du Portage" & "The Man and the Moose"

Ben von Jagow

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What does it mean to be Canadian? What part does it play in our identity? These questions, alongside familial tension, guardianship, and division are brought to the forefront in Ben von Jagow’s poems.

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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.”

Pont du Portage

Summer nights we dared cross that bridge,

lured by birds who trilled differently,

lenient bouncers, stories to share come fall.

More than once, we spilled from those clubs,

jaws clenched, scared, not knowing what rule

we were breaking but knowing it was dire.

Jesse fled, Keegan got jumped, and there were

rumours, though I don’t know how true,

about one of the 94’s doing something in an alley

with a hockey team. Probably bullshit. But hey,

you either chased stories or were chased home.

Pressed into the backseat of someone’s mom’s car,

ear to the cold glass, a lingering taste of whiskey sours,

the sign could read Portage Bridge or Pont du Portage

depending on which way you faced.

The Man and the Moose

On the other side of the globe

there sits a man in a factory

sewing plastic eyes

onto a stuffed moose

which my dog rips apart

while the whole room laughs

Mom says: 

what are you doing to your baby? 

which prompts chuckles

because the moose is not her baby

something inherent determines that 

and when my dog tears the head off the moose 

for the grand finale 

Mom snatches it from the floor

explains to the room

that my dog will choke

on the plastic eyes

the eyes that the man sewed on

the man who’s never seen a moose. 

Ben von Jagow is a Canadian poet living in Stockholm. His work has appeared in literary journals such as The Antigonish Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, The Stockholm Review of Literature, and The Literary Review of Canada, among others. For more of Ben’s work, visit benvj.com

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Additional reading

Yolk Manifesto

Punch

Egg the Poet

Pont du Portage‍Summer nights we dared cross that bridge,lured by birds who trilled differently,lenient bouncers, stories to share come fall. ‍More than once, we spilled from those clubs,jaws clenched, scared, not knowing what rule we were breaking but knowing it was dire. ‍Jesse fled, Keegan got jumped, and there wererumours, though I don’t know how true,about one of the 94’s doing something in an alley‍with a hockey team. Probably bullshit. But hey,you either chased stories or were chased home.Pressed into the backseat of someone’s mom’s car,‍ear to the cold glass, a lingering taste of whiskey sours,the sign could read Portage Bridge or Pont du Portagedepending on which way you faced.‍The Man and the Moose‍On the other side of the globethere sits a man in a factorysewing plastic eyes onto a stuffed moosewhich my dog rips apartwhile the whole room laughsMom says: what are you doing to your baby? which prompts chucklesbecause the moose is not her babysomething inherent determines that and when my dog tears the head off the moose for the grand finale Mom snatches it from the floorexplains to the roomthat my dog will choke on the plastic eyesthe eyes that the man sewed onthe man who’s never seen a moose. ‍Benvon Jagow is a Canadian poet living in Stockholm. His work has appeared inliterary journals such as The Antigonish Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, TheStockholm Review of Literature, and The Literary Review of Canada, amongothers. For more of Ben’s work, visit benvj.com. ‍