the poetry that matters

Elana Wolff

Elana Wolff's poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in the US, UK, and Canada, including The Malahat Review, Canadian Literature, Event, CV2, Grain, Descant, Carousel, Taddle Creek Magazine, Vallum: contemporary poetry, Qwerty, and The Fiddlehead. Her poems have garnered various awards and her third collection, You Speark to Me in Trees, (Guernica, 2006), won the 2008 F.G. Bressani Prize for Poetry. Elana divides hertime between writing, editing, and facilitating therapeutic art. A collection of short essays on poems by GTA poets, titled Implicate Me, is forthcoming with Guernica this summer.



We know we’re going but haven’t chosen the mode.

We can stop by the tearoom and have the medium read our cards.

Drop crumbs, like H and G—to substantiate our having been.

By the time we take, it’s late to retrace.

We stiff the diner, backdoor-it into flash-pan alley.

Is it always this blinding outside?

One of us is always angry. Hungry. Angry/hungry.

I touch the spot at the bottom where the money’s supposed to be.

Or did you lay it on the table?

We lack prescience but plod on.

At the limit, under a bridge, where the water’s lowered to a trickle,
we get thirst.

Sense something whirring by.

I start to burn my arms. You don’t notice. The missing matches.

If I fall and crack my head, don’t stuff me in the trunk.

There’s a fork in the road. The right sign says DAWN FARM.
Long-term treatment for drug and alcohol addiction on a working
farm. Accredited program with affordable care for real recovery.


The other says GRAVEDIGGER wanted. Cash per plot. 

How does one decide?

I dreamt you were picking my nits, hauling me to Happy’s
over your shoulder.

I’ve never been this light. We’ve never been this needy.

Thirst is with us all the time.                                                              

We twirl in the dark in the park, looking up to the Dippers.
Crash laughing. Both break teeth.

If the pieces are eatable, we’ll survive.

So where were we.

                           —Back at the fork.

There must be a reset lever.



We’re not to vaunt our luxuries.
There are appearances to keep under wedlock.

Conniver is the moniker she likes to
                         use on others.

How do I tell her how many times she’s told
that same old jape.

A pain shoots through my nape.

                                                 That same old saw.

If we have them, we’re not to speak of them. Not flaunt.

The porcelain quota:

We enter through the backdoor, usually used by gallery staff.

Place our ugliest stuff on pedestals.

It’s not as if these monkeys’ll gather dust.

             The subway shunts and rumbles underneath us;

subtle gets jumbled to sublet,
s’ slips off and lands before laughter,

devolves to ink,
to eel,
and the lion lows as the monkeys hump.


Pencil in
corrections and suggestions.

Mint for her my words, misread/her writing,
mine, the merger. Her memories/

mine, the mix. Overlapping Catherines,
hypotheticals, a foreign friend,

from whom I learned a visionary word—

—as vague and veiled at twelve as

quasi modo
. New girl with the Lamp Black
hair and Esmeralda dresses, tiny

pearl pierced-earrings from Bombay.
Pierced, for me, is not allowed;

I ice my lobes to pull the sewing
needle through in secret. Turn the doubled

thread each day to keep the holes from closing,
till I save enough for studs.

Gold so bold, remote, so near, so pearly-near
my lobes they show the error of my way—

one stud always higher,
one stuck

lower than the other.




The teacher, showing light-on-her-left,
wand-in-her-right, is quickened
by the content on the wall.
The silly part is when Arlena
queries where I’ve gone to and I haven’t gone to
anywhere: I’m thinking of the beings
in the easel at the teacher’s toe,
thanking them in silence for their service.
Arlena sure comes up with stuff—
“Aquarian mothers abandon their kids;
care more for humanity than family.”
In the fairytale, Misfortune, which the teacher
has been reading us, the mother throws her
ill-starred daughter out.
—“Aquarian behaviour,” says Arlena.
The girl agrees to leave; she knows
she has to face the animus face-to-face.
It’s a dark life, but we don’t choose death—
though some do, and have to answer.

Misfortune, the girl in the fairytale, becomes
Miss Fortune in the end—after many trials
wins her prince.
                                               The teacher’s
voice attenuates, she tears as she speaks of
what was done from the heartland of her
homeland—’33-45.     I have to close my
eyes to black the shadow.

                                    Fury goes about
its business—hatred for the sake of hate
this force of which the teacher speaks
                                   now seethes
with real impunity
                        at earth’s
             capacious core.  


Sppeak No evil, by Elana Wolff, multi-media collage stitched on canvas, 36" x 30"

Bookmark and Share