“Basic Aid for Minor Scrapes,” by Finn Purcell


CW: trauma, child abuse

The end of March smells like fresh wounds.
I wake up with wasps in my lungs, thorns at my feet,
the heat bleaches through my window
and I am back there but I am not back there.

It will take ten minutes of stillness
before the threat of the sting ceases,
before I can ease the air to my lungs.

In that nervous quiet,
I remember
I forget

I was born a week too soon, the only on-time I’ve ever been.
You are rushing down the hall to get this shoe and that card —
“Come on, can’t you help me here?!”
My small fingers stretch over the table, clamp around your purse strap, and I pull
until the sack lurches and thuds and spills.

You are in the doorway, noiseless and on fire,
I am on the floor, tangled in handles.

“Are you fucking kidding me? What the fuck are you doing?
Look at this fucking mess! I can always count on you!”

In my uncle’s car, he is laughing. “What took you so long?”
“Well, you know this one,” you say, waving at me.

I was fresh skin and tripping rocks,
wholly infant, tender and wild,
what did I know? what did I know?

A shower is just a shower until a shower is
a white noise sanctuary
to drown you out, to drown me

until you become thunder
banging at a cracking door,
muffling demands, shimmying
a steak knife through the lock mechanism
to get me, to get my attention
again and again

23, I forgot.
24, I remembered.

I am fourteen and I am asking why you hate me.

You are hurt, indignant, asking
“when am I so horrible to you?
when I buy you clothes? when I cook you dinner?
when I let you have friends over?”

I am fourteen and you are right
and it’s only me, ungrateful.
(I am ungrateful still
and maybe I should be better.)

and when we fight, you are saying “let me guess,
you’re going to make me the big bad wolf,
you’re going to twist me into a monster
when you’re the monster!”

so I am being quiet
and I am on the floor
and already my skull is a pulse in a spin cycle,
bleached for nine more years.

A recurring nightmare started at six:
me and several others, shadows creaking,
trapped in a house we couldn’t leave.
A monster slips and slithers the halls
while I hide in low corners.

Sometimes, someone disappeared
and the courtyard statue would bleed.
Sometimes, people would visit the outside
and I would scream from the upstairs window.
They never heard.

School pictures, grade four. I am ten.
You are showing me how to put on concealer
because this is what happens when I won’t stop crying.

I stop crying.

One of my exes stopped coming over the day you threw a plate at her.

“I was aiming for you” you told me,
and “What’s the big deal? It’s just a plate”
so I told her the same.

The ashes I have become
will carry, will scatter,
will soot all they touch.

I’d been moved for months before anything came out,
before “that’s just my mother”
became “oh” and “wait” and —

Now I am mechanisms, symptoms.
Now I am “what else have I forgotten to remember? what else have I? what else?”

Some scars have exact stories,
others appear in the morning, throbbing without explanation.

Do you remember the time
you and Dad removed the training wheels
and I, overexcited, took to the sidewalk,
sped up and down the street from one corner to another?
Hot July sweat tickled, stuck the hair to my neck.
Black leaves willowed against one another in the sun.
The spokes whizzed and my legs churned
until I hit the rock.

The handlebar seized, I flipped,
and you came running.
You cradled me
while I held my scraped palms to bleeding knee.
Soft, warm tears.
You rocked me back and forth, pet my hair, sang to me,
and Dad rummaged for the First Aid.
I wished I could scrape my knee every day.

If I remember you are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
will I forget the skies are grey?

The end of March smells like fresh wounds,
smells like eggs cracking and butter on toast.
In the midst of the spatter, I am shivering.
My hands are not my hands.
I am the nest, the keeper of the wasps, only the container,
the bodily visceral memory
that I can’t remember,
I can’t forget.

I am crying over eggs and I don’t know why.


these words by Finn Purcell were inspired by the work of Daphne Boyer

On Silence and Domestic Abuse


I was fifteen years old when she told me for the first time. I had asked her how she was doing. She looked squarely into my eyes, which look exactly like hers, and said words that she would go on to repeat many times: “I am waiting to die.” She said it in her usual way: tired yet hard and brazen. No tremble, no sadness. Defiant eyes. She didn’t say it to complain, or to illicit pity. (Though that’s what the others sometimes said about her.)

Most grandchildren don’t expect to hear that kind of language. Not me. I was fairly certain I knew why she said it. I knew about the angry welts on her body from his hands. I had been there once as a small child when he grabbed her by the hair and smashed her head toward the corner of the wooden cabinet. It was the last thing I saw before she pushed me out of the room and closed the door with her falling weight. I knew that she had been the sole breadwinner her whole life, working manual labour to put food on the table, to pay for her children’s school fees, to unwillingly fund his addictions to gambling and prostitutes, cigarettes and alcohol. (This later came to include funding his child support payments for those illegitimate children that we didn’t talk about but whose mouths were also fed by her hard work.) These, after all, had been the constant realities of my life as I flitted in and out of their home, not quite innocent enough to escape their burning silences but thankfully spared from the fits of rage and violence that I knew existed underneath. But I still had to ask her “Why?” to hear it from her own lips.

“Because my health is clearly worse than his, and at this rate, the only way I will find peace away from him is when I’m gone.” She was in her mid-seventies at this point.

“But if what you want is to be free of him, isn’t there anything we can do other than wait? Can’t you get a divorce? Can’t you move out and stop living with him?” I asked. Visions of my grandmother as I had never known her, happy and carefree, danced before me.

“There’s no point.” She seemed instantly to regret saying anything, shooing away my questions and telling me that I wouldn’t – couldn’t – understand. There was too much I didn’t know. In my teenage mind, I felt patronized. What was she keeping from me?  

I asked my mother. I asked my aunts. I got mixed responses. From “We’ve tried. We’ve offered multiple times to move her out, but she won’t leave. And he won’t leave either,” to the more frightening, “She’s past the point of moving on. There’s nothing you can do for her now.” I felt impotent. I thought about those defiant eyes; that hard stare that she gave him when she wordlessly served him his breakfast, lunch and supper which she cooked from scratch, no matter how bedridden the doctors told her she was. Diabetes, hypertension, a heart attack: nothing could stop her from keeping him fed. It seemed impossible to understand – if she wanted it to end, why didn’t she just walk away?

Ten years have passed since she first declared to me that she was waiting to die. Her body is older, closer to the relief she seeks and further from us who love her.  On a warm January morning this year, she told me yet again, “My bones are very tired. I am waiting to die.” And for once, finally, she was ready to say why.

“My father had wanted to choose a husband for me, as was common in those days, but I was headstrong and insisted on marrying your grandfather out of love. We had known each other since we were children; we grew up as neighbours. My father relented and we got married. The first couple years were okay. We had your aunt and your mother. But then, things started changing even before your uncle and aunt were born. You know already: gambling , alcohol, prostitutes. I had to start working, and then I had to work more and more. We were getting poorer and poorer…at some points we were barely eating, and we had to pull your aunt out of school. My father tried to loan us money but your grandfather always spent it all. Since I’m a woman, my father couldn’t trust me with money…he always gave the loans directly to your grandfather. But it was always gone before it ever reached me or the children, and I could never pay my father back, no matter how hard I worked.  I could barely put food on the table with my salary. He eventually had to cut us off because he realized that any cent he loaned us would be a cent wasted. He passed away before I could ever pay him back, before I could ever apologize for costing him so much and for having wronged him so greatly with my choice of husband.”

Before I could say a word, she continued.

“My mother was much more sympathetic. She moved in with us to care for your mother and her siblings so that I could work more hours. Sometimes, I would have to go away for days at a time. She always begged me not to go for too long.”

Tears were falling down her cheeks.

“One day, your great-grandmother got sick while I was gone. She must have been in her late 70s and she was such a tiny, frail person. Your aunt took her to the doctor’s, where they diagnosed her…”

The tears came stronger; her words almost a whisper.

“With an infection that came from untreated chlamydia. Your aunt had to translate the doctor’s questions as to how on earth a woman at that age could have contracted…”

She paused. The realization dawned on me.

“…a venereal disease. And that’s how I found out that he had been raping my own mother for nearly twenty years.”

She took a pause. We blew our noses, and wiped our tears.

“She said she never told me because he threatened her by saying that if she ever told, he would hurt me and the girls. Of course, by that point he already had… your aunt and uncle were forced onto me by assault. I didn’t want to have any more children after your mother was born. And my little girls… I could only protect them when I was home, but when I wasn’t around…Your mother was seven years old when she came crying to me when I got back from work. She said she had been bent over, feeding the chickens when he came over and…and…”

She couldn’t finish.

“He used to break broomstick handles over your mother’s head for her insolence. But she always fought back. Not like your great-grandmother. She was so tiny, so meek…I can never forgive myself for any of it.”

My ears felt like they were ringing, my chest felt heavy, my eyes were stinging. Three generations of women before me had been abused by the man who was sitting on the other side of the house…

Except that he wasn’t. He wasn’t on the other side of the house. Somehow, in all our sadness, we had missed the sound of his footsteps approaching. He was suddenly standing there, in the doorway looking silently at our puffy eyes and runny noses.

As our eyes met, he said, “Did you read the news about the EU?”  

I was incapable of saying a word. I wanted to get up and punch him in the face. I wanted to lash out and scream at him. I wanted to push him down the stairs, out of the house and away from all the people that I loved.

I looked at my grandmother. The defiant eyes were gone. She did not look scared of him: she looked scared of me. She gave an almost imperceptible shake of the head as if to say “Don’t.”  I thought I understood. He had already ruined everything that was sacred to her…her mother, her father, her children, herself. If I said anything, he would be on her as soon as I left. I kept my mouth shut. Once he had crossed to the living room, she whispered that I must promise to never never breathe a word to him about it. I promised, frightened of what he would do to her.   

I spent much of the next twenty four hours horrified. I tried to convince her that we needed to make a plan to get her away from him. She was infuriated by my many suggestions.

“You promised me you wouldn’t make a fuss!”

When it was clear that I wasn’t intending on giving up, she took me aside and looked me in the eye.

“I’m not afraid of your grandfather. He can do nothing worse than what he has already done. So stop trying to ruin everything. I was foolish to think that you would ever understand.”

I was so confused. I had thought that she didn’t want me to say anything precisely because she was afraid of the violence he might cause.

It has taken me a long time for me to understand why she hasn’t left. I see now that my grandmother has had very few choices in her life…but her choice to stay or leave is hers to make, not mine to make for her.  So much has already been taken from her. Who am I to take away her one last choice to solemnly await death? She has decided for herself that while on earth she cannot escape the madness and guilt of his doing. No physical distance from him can set her free from her anger towards herself. She seems to choose to be within hating distance of him so as to concentrate all her silent fury outward, instead of in. As much as she hates him, I feel she hates herself more for not having been able to stop him. She comes from a generation that doesn’t believe in counselling, so I have no way to help her shed her guilt. Instead, she waits for the end.

these words by Jo-Ann Zhou were inspired by the colour of Raphael Varona

these words by Jo-Ann Zhou were inspired by the colour of Raphael Varona

On child abuse: “Snow in the water”


A small girl and a tall, middle-aged man eat lunch together at the local fast food restaurant. Both have sauce on their face: him on his chin, her just above her left eyebrow, and both eat the French fries between them with ferocity.

‘Can I have another burger?’ the small girl asks the middle-aged man.

‘No, you’ve had enough, little dumpling,’ the man replies.

The girl looks down at her white liquid thighs. There are delicate webs of blue vein just beneath the skin. She can almost see them wriggling.


The man and the girl go to see a film at the small cinema with the smell like neglected cupboard and forgotten jacket. They stand looking up at the posters.

‘What would you like to see?’ the man asks.

‘I don’t mind, Daddy,’ the girl replies.


The middle-aged man buys two tickets to Titanic and as the opening credits roll he reaches over and puts his hand in the small girl’s lap. She begins from one hundred in her head and pictures each number brightly coloured, flying free across the dark inside her skull.


word by Laura McPhee-Browne

“This piece of art is beautiful to me but it is also confusing, and I believe it is not what it seems. The title of the painting is ‘iceberg’, and I decided to write a little story about something that, like an iceberg, is almost never what it seems to be; child abuse.

When child abuse occurs between a parent and a child, it can easily be dismissed as imagination or exaggeration, but often what a child discloses about what has happened to them will be only the tip of the iceberg. It is important for us as adults to delve deeper—to dive down and find out what is really going on underneath the surface.”

colour by Emilie Rondeau

“My visual practice is a transgression and alteration of our perception of reality. I encourage free and intuitive interventions. Although abstract, my paintings carry the memories of atmospheric gardens, nebulous spaces, organic landscapes and architectures. Made of solid and bright colours, washes, painted and drawn marks, the compositions are reminiscent of complex and dreamlike environments. From the infinitely big to the infinitely small, cosmic or cellular spaces transport us with a strong impression of movement and energy.

The lines intersect and intertwine, linking shapes and colours together. Sometimes fast and agitated mark making succeeds to slow and smooth gesture. Colour is pure and vibrant. The harmony is rich and thoughtful within the limits of strangeness. A delicate balance takes place in this continual research for new visual forms. The eyes travel, search and rest. My paintings are an invitation for a trip in between the painting surface and your mind.”

On Sexual Abuse: “Sizzler”


unnamed (1)

‘Is that all you’re having?’ Phillip has looked over her meal and seen that she is starving. It is the peak of a Melbourne summer outside and Merry feels fat and tired and large enough as it is. He frowns and pushes the breadbasket towards her. ‘You don’t have to worry about your weight, you wouldn’t suit being skinny. Have some bread.’

‘I’ve always been fat.’

art fiction 

Suddenly she doesn’t care about anything except what this conversation could be. No one since her father has ever brought up her weight. She has never talked to anyone about it either but now she feels she might be able to tell Phillip something, something that could perhaps explain.

He doesn’t reply with anything, doesn’t deny her statement. Merry feels a little light-headed, though she has hardly touched her Amaretto Sour. She fishes around in the glass with her fingers and pulls out the cherry, dangling it above and then down into her mouth.

art fiction 

‘Don’t do that. Women shouldn’t eat with their fingers.’

art fiction 

She wipes hand on the paper napkin beside her plate, mouth slightly watering from the effort not to lick.

After Phillip has gone back for more veal schnitzel and duck gravy and they are lily-lipped and cloud-eyed, he asks her if she will take him home.

art fiction 

‘I live with this old woman who hates it if I have guests. I think she’s in love with me.’

art fiction 

He smiles a little and adjusts his sagging shirt collar. Merry feels that the woman is most certainly in love with him; she understands through the liquor that the woman flirts with Phillip in her tattered kimono over eggs and beans for breakfast and that she has a cat who curls often on Phillip’s knee.

art fiction 

‘What’s her name?’ she asks.

‘June. Why?’ His voice has coloured slightly—it is a storm in the distance, in the heavy clouds.

‘Oh, I just wondered. June is a nice name.’

art fiction 

He frowns, forcefully, as if it will help him to tolerate her stupidity.

art fiction 

‘She’s just my housemate. She’s old and sagging and pays most of the rent.’

art fiction 

There is a familiarity to Phillip’s forehead that she did not see before. It’s in his crooked eyebrows, the slight pouches of muscle above each one that move when he talks like they are his voice. It must be the reason why she feels a pulsing in her groin at every word he speaks—because she knows him.

      They have dessert, coffee, more sours, more smooth froth on lagers like chocolate milkshakes. It is Phillip that decides when they need to leave, and he doesn’t come back to her nervous, cluttered flat after all. He starts to eat at her neck and then her chin in the taxi on the way there and tells the driver to stop so that he can fuck her up against an alleyway brick wall that is sprayed in red and green and blue: coloured words she can’t read but that she thinks just might mean everything.

       Just as he pushes himself in she sees who his forehead is. Now it’s her father with his hand up under her dress, pulling at her nipple too hard. She closes her eyes and tries to remember the sound of Philip’s voice. She hears sirens and feels strangled breath heat the skin that covers her neck tendons.

“When I saw this art piece by Fannie Gadouas, I immediately felt protective towards the woman with the blood and strawberries in her lap, with all her vulnerability so blatantly displayed. 
The character of Merry in my story ‘Sizzler’ is a vulnerable character because of her background, and the way her femininity and innocence was abused by those closest to her. Despite this trauma and vulnerability, Merry keeps living and trying to find something better for herself. The strawberries replacing most of the blood in Fannie Gadouas’ piece inspired the resilience inherent in the character of Merry, and reminded me of the resilience I have witnessed in so many (less fictional!) women I know and love.”

colour by Fannie Gadouas

“I am an interdisciplinary artist working with photography, fiber arts and performance. My work explores issues pertaining to femininity, identity and experience. By re-appropriating various traditional imagery, techniques and rituals, I question and challenge the way gendered identity is constructed, inherited and perceived in western society. Textiles is, and has traditionally been associated with the feminine realm. Critically engaging with techniques such as weaving, knitting and embroidery allows me to subvert and question my own role as both woman and artist. In this sense, my practice as a whole becomes a performance in which the process holds more relevance than the resulting objects. Informed and greatly influenced by feminist theory, the work I produce is a critical response to the social structure of western society.”

On Abuse, Beauty Standards: “Blueberry Scones”


Content warning: abuse 

Blueberry scones.  Louise recalled her mother baking them fragrant and buttery every Sunday morning.  They left flour trails on the good porcelain dishware and corners of her mouth as they dined on the lawn.  Their necks sheltered by the limbs of the poplar tree.  Louise would blush with the heady kisses of the blueberries and peals of laughter.  The poplar bared its fruits in that space, though its trunk was slim and its leaves almost translucent.

The air in the house took on an electrified vibe when he started coming around.  In the parlour under definite drawls of “honey,” the coffee was bitter but jarring.  It pooled black and inky as it rested on her knees.  Back straight as she perched on the sofa, her lips painted cherry red to match her mothers.  Daytime appearances seamlessly folded into nightly visits.  Dresses were ironed carefully each time; their clean A-lines improved by the hundreds of tummy toners performed every morning.  He brought new sound to the house too; concertos of harsh shouts that didn’t echo beyond the starched, checkered curtains. Her mother’s eyes shone like slivers of wet jewels- any drips that touched her cheeks wiped clean and painted over with cream-coloured powder.  Tender spots of bruised flesh could be covered by wool as autumn closed in.

The ruts in her mother’s chin grew deeper and her mouth settled in placidity.

“I am making this work for us”, a mantra repeated as she pinched the earrings tight on her lobes and pulled her hair taut against her head. A golden egg exposed for the taking.

“It’s better for us to have a man,” she repeated somewhat apologetically as she pulled Louise down street to her ballet classes.




The screams washed over the house that evening.  They rolled over the kitchen mouldings and crashed against the windowpanes.  Louise dashed upstairs- it was time to seek higher ground.  A wild female wail then a teacup flung- it sung as it fractured against the wall.

The dishes continued to fall downstairs.  The crushing sound became definite and dependable, like the merging of orchestrated notes in her ballet classes.

“You’re just gonna do that all night are ya?”

No answer.  Louise heard the front door slam.  Piece after piece, they were hurled at the wall.  She began to feel a rhythm.

Shattering.  Release.  He was gone- all these broken pieces were too difficult to tread on.  She heard sobbing.  The breaking continued.  Alone in her bedroom, Louise started to spin.  The merging of sound, performing under pressure.  Was she straining?  She didn’t think so.  Among the wreck, she felt in her element.  She wasn’t broken – her flesh withstood more than those brittle dishes.  She tilted her head back – a dizzy distancing feeling crept in.  For now she could cope.  Soon enough she would rise from these fragments and pirouette away.


word by Keah Hansen

From the author: “The shattered tea cup- with its clean lines and dainty features- made me think of the strain women feel when upholding conventional beauty standards. Its brokenness inspired me to write about an abusive domestic relationship, and an experience of cathartic release for the female characters.  While the mother smashes through her imposed constraints and repels her perpetrator, she is still cloistered within the traditional domestic sphere.”

colour by Fannie Gadouas

“I am an interdisciplinary artist working with photography, fiber arts and performance. My work explores issues pertaining to feminine, identity and experience. By re-appropriating various traditional imagery, techniques and rituals, I question and challenge the way gendered identity is constructed, inherited and perceived in western society. Textiles is, and has traditionally been associated with the feminine realm. Critically engaging with techniques such as weaving, knitting and embroidery allows me to subvert and question my own role as both woman and artist. In this sense, my practice as a whole becomes a performance in which the process holds more relevance than the resulting objects. Informed and greatly influenced by feminist theory, the work I produce is a critical response to the social structure of western society.”