“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

“The Ice Show” by Erin Flegg


The vet only had two appointments for the day, morning or afternoon, so I took the 3:45. It didn’t seem like the sort of thing I could handle until after the ice show was done.

When I arrived at the rink it was full of parents stringing twinkle lights and plastering the boards with black paper and clear hockey tape, setting the scene, and by 2 p.m. when the lights went down the place was packed. The first small group teetered out onto the ice and I was suddenly emotional, my eyes misting over. It happened again as I watched my oldest senior skater perform, in a dress that clearly wasn’t made for her, a routine we finished three days ago. The salty intrusion confused me for a minute. I had been so relieved to be done with the season, my official ties with this town dissolved, that it was unexpected. They’re good kids. I didn’t want them to think I was abandoning them.

When the final number was over the other coach and I were called to center ice. I didn’t listen to what the announcer said and instead spent my last few minutes on the ice looking at each kid. All winter, so many hours spent just keeping track of them all. The announcer had to call Ava’s name several times before she heard it and rushed over to grab two bouquets and skate them over to us. Lisa hugged her so I hugged her too, but I worried it was the wrong thing to do. I had spent more time shouting across the rink at her than saying nice things when she was close by. Pay attention, stay in your position, leave that other kid alone. But maybe she felt just as strange, had shot her hand up in the air when whatever parent bought the flowers asked who wanted to present them, eager as usual for any chance to stand out, forgetting for a moment that she didn’t actually like me very much. We assembled for a group photo and I squatted next to one of the smallest kids, holding one hand while she used the other to snake broken bits of Doritos through the cage on her helmet and into her stained mouth.

I told Lisa I had to go, grabbed my backpack and walked across the street to the vet. It was just a small white house with a sandwich board out front on the weekends when they were in town. I walked in still holding the bouquet of flowers and worried the vet tech would think I’d got them for the cat. I didn’t want her to think I was the kind of person who would buy a bouquet of flowers and bring them with me to put down my cat. I tried to hold on to the flat, easy feeling from the end of the show, skip like a stone over this part, but my partner arrived with eyes swollen and the cat in his plastic crate and I sank back down. I lifted him onto the exam table and he flopped to one side, too weak to be either curious or upset. The vet shaved a small patch on his front paw, slid the needle in and he was gone.

these words by Erin Flegg were inspired by the work of Kelsy Gossett



word by David Fleming

colour by Burkhard ller 

On the metro delivering the girls to my ex in a mall.

A young woman close by waves to them. She smiles her surprise at the sight of a man with children. I smile back, upholding her fantasy.

It’s alarming how the mechanics of a city collide and separate us. On the teeth of the upward escalator, I am holding my three year old. Her big sister wraps her limbs around my leg like a koala. I’m a little escalator, here for them to ride up and down.

Down a hallway, another escalator. I am sweating in rush hour.

I wonder how Sam’s managing. Trying to remember if I left her, or if she left us, and who the kids think left whom, and who they feel is still fully present.


Daddy, I STEAL YOUR NOSE! says the girl in my arms as she swats at my face.


Down a yellow hallway, offices curve into their little corners. We are in the space where underground becomes above-ground, where I sometimes feel myself gasping for air.

Don’t know why she wanted to meet here, this week.

A memory: eating in the food-court up the next escalator. J’adore la poutine? or la cheeseburger? I always goofed her with my fast food Franglish. 

Again, we escalate quietly, a few impatient people pass to the left. For some reason, the toddler shrieks Mommy’s house! in my ear.

A crazy idea: I could ask Sam to have dinner in the food-court. Family hour. Our future, joined somehow, could be pleasant. We’d exchange small talk, remind the girls to sit and eat. We could be like coworkers, sitting in a lunchroom, rolling our eyes at the orthodontist bill.

Can’t you love a person the same from a different building, a different room?

An excited shout from my side.




Sam’s best friend. When we met in college, I liked her first, though she was always mean. I told her once, years later, when we were alone, in a season when we were getting along.

Wearing gym clothes, her hair in a tight bun, her glare scolds and scalds me.

I remember, now, Jess moved into a condo in this building last year, when it was ending.


Where’s Sam? I ask. I was hoping to speak with her.

She wanted me to pick them up today.

Oh, I said quietly. What’s she up to?

It’s not important. I’m in a rush, though.

I have some things to discuss with her, maybe I’ll just call.


A huff over her shoulder.


Look, I don’t know what you have in mind, but Sam’s busy.


She takes the girls, one on her hip, one by the hand, and gets on the elevator which, presumably, leads to her home.

Before the doors close, she leans forward intently.


Your choice, she whispers. Your choice.*

word by David Fleming

colour by Burkhard Müller 


Motherhood, Work: “On Her Bike”

word by Cora-Lee Conway
colour by Michael Ward

I watched the late afternoon sun cast shadows on the structures in my eye’s view. Dark, distorted silhouettes danced on the wall in front of me and I let myself be drawn into the hypnotizing sway and I closed my eyes. You know when you close your eyes and turn your face towards the sun, all the colors you see in the darkness? I closed my eyes for just a second.
I was so tired, physically and then some.  It was hard raising Maggie on my own, it was a constant struggle. Looking for free everywhere: food, clothes, programming… I worked so hard and it never seemed to be enough. I was determined that she would have everything she needed, I was just determined, period. She had just turned six and all she wanted was a bike.
After seven years of working in the increasingly defunct catalog department of Sears I saw children come in with their grandparents to order gifts of all sorts at all costs. Some of the kids were sweet, some were brats and some engaged in full body melt-down tactics of manipulation and subterfuge. So when my pudgy-fingered baby girl asked me for a pink bike for her birthday I was not inclined to refuse. I just didn’t know how I would make it happen.
I managed to get her into some religious charter school on a scholarship and that was no small feat, but then the uniform costs and the regulations about school lunches and books and extra-curricular activities all came fast and furious. I have a high-school education, but a PhD in working the system; I appealed on compassionate grounds for reprieve, looked for more funding and sometimes I just had to say no. Maggie never ever complained, she never made me feel bad; so when this issue of the bike came up I felt compelled, as a mother. I rarely succumbed to the pangs of consumerism but I was completely vulnerable here.
I worked a six am start shift in inventory and then nine to three on cash in order to pick Maggie up from school every day. One of the school’s resource teachers picked her up in the mornings and took her to school. It really takes a village. So after school, like every other day, I was inordinately tired. At the supposed to be tender age of 27 I had developed permanent bags under my eyes, and I hadn’t purchased a pair of shoes for myself in five years. Maggie wanted to ride her new bike after school. I picked her up from school and she had taken off her little short-sleeved button-up and a huge mustard stain graced her brand new tights. She was happy to see me and happier still to see the bike I picked up from home. I was late and all the other kids had long since gone. She peddled up and down, her gap toothed smile and loud giggle echoing in the street. I closed my eyes, heavy with exhaustion and lost myself for a just a second.