the avian idol panic of my 20s

Ksenia Shulyarenko

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In an effort to make the work housed in our print issues available to a wider audience, yolk digitizes a select few pieces from each print issue! “the avian idol panic of my 20s” by Ksenia Shulyarenko first appeared in the Vol. 3.2, Winter 2023 Issue.

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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 reporter in the phone asks “Do you find that there’s an alarming trend 
of Gen Z idolizing bird-gods?”
I hear some other voice respond with lengthy nuance, 
but I want to jump in to clarify that,
teens don’t worship birds? 
When did feathers spout immoral panic?
I have no time to find out because my friends are renting art studios, 
so we drink Mezcal cocktails with the cunty realtor, 
until the falafel bar we work at is bought to be made into a 
high-end hostel-spa-coworking-space
for ‘digital nomads’ or the Next Big Thing. 
That’s fine, we can keep up with the times.
We’ll sell our clothing on Bernard, like, 
in a chic way, like 
the ketamine queers who do it so well they’re frightening.
I’ll use my faux-Harvard Bcom skills to strike a deal
– a pack of John Players Velouté should do it 
plus a bump next time we see them in the sewer – 
to share the retail space of Mile-End’s Coolest un-employees. 
My phone rings, someone asks:
We’re out of shot glasses at the bar, can I please bring some? 
My homemade mugs will have to do. Can I get a cut of sales? Just enough 
to save the warehouse, where we’ll put the restaurant 
and the studio and all the racks from the Street Boutiques. 
We’ll take our lovers with us, host torrid basement raves,
and no one will charge rent. 
The greenhouse on the roof will thrive because plants like techno
and if I ask nicely I can get the birds to 
defend the water tower and no it won’t be worship—
it will just be kind of cool.

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Additional reading

Sicilian Blue

Age of the Machine

Beyond Control