Throwback

Elana Wolff

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Elana Wolff’s “Throwback” is an encounter with the experience of becoming. Through eerie comparisons and strange images, Wolff’s poem succeeds in revealing how childhood memories can become deeply unsettling as we come to understand them.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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.”

Wind wrinkled the river and lake,
the clouds—
huge cumolo-vaporous shapes—
flattened into stratus: long thin aerial altars

disassembling in the mist.
In school we called an awkward boy ‘The Ostrich’
behind his back. Legs too long for his body,
head too small—he walked like a logger. He went completely

bald before grade 12 and moved away. Odd
how people pop into one’s thoughts.
Mr. P. was my German teacher that year.
A fit man with a moustache that looked like Hitler’s,

which only occurred to me later; at the time,
I liked his tidy style. His potent way of pacing—back and forth
across the room. His turtlenecks and dark blue suits,
how he called on Anne von Glatz and Elsa Metz

to answer. He made me like those clipped
Germanic names and love those girls,
even though they hardly noticed me. Mr. P.—
I might have called him late one night

for help. But I didn’t have his number  
or know what I’d tell him if I’d had it.
Sometimes, he would sit on his desk
and show the soles of his brogues. Mystery

emanated from the leather.
I copied his strong, deliberate script—letters slanting right
like duteous feet.
She who copies becomes the stalker
, I read

and abandoned that slant.
He showed up some months later
where I was waiting on cocktail tables, ordered a Scotch
and water and asked me what I was doing these days—

as if he couldn’t see. “I’m working to pay my way,”
I said, and smiled and went on serving.    
Seeing him there—that moustache
and the turtleneck, the dark blue suit—

was weirdly out of place.
I felt his tidy eyes on me
wherever I was in the room.
“Je vous en prie,” I answered when he thanked me

for my service.
He took my hand and pressed
a lavish tip into my palm, closed his fingers over mine
and wished me, “Alles Gute.”

Perhaps
it was from Mr. P.
I first heard tell of Kafka.

Elana Wolff lives and works in Thornhill, Ontario—the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat First Nations. Her collection, SWOON, won the 2020 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry. Her cross-genre Kafka-quest work, FAITHFULLY SEEKING FRANZ, is forthcoming with Guernica Editions.

Products from this story

No items found.

Additional reading

august

Sicilian Blue