Issue 11 (2017): Service


Despite differences in interpretation, the work published here invokes two enduring elements of service. There is commitment (willing or less so), hard work, sacrifice. But there is also growth. All of the women represented in these stories are changed through acts of service.

Duty: Three Poems

Births and deaths come crowding when my weather finger moans. / The three-month-old in Peds misses his mother who hasn't been seen all week. / Nurses fight over who wants most to take him home. / A woman, sixty-three, misses her mother. Orphaned now.

Chemistry of Fire

I have a bomb in my purse. Its presence is constant. It could go off at any hour, as long as I’m in range of the detonator. Across the province, the country, the continent, there are hundreds of thousands of people carrying their own bombs....

The Trouble with Margaret

I am not a patient person. I do not suffer fools gladly. But with Margaret I was patient because she was no fool and I’d made a choice. So, four nights a week, I climbed the steps from my tiny suite, surfacing in her living room at eight o'clock.


Crow’s shadow slides / Down icy perch / Calling no one / Howls and hisses / Screaming, spitting / Echoes over / Empty morning / Of bitter air / And spiteful frost / Reverberates / Over concrete / And inside me

Service Works

People used to tell me that giving was more rewarding than receiving. But once I started using alcohol and drugs in my early teens, my vocabulary reduced to “Gimme, gimme.” I started on a road to nowhere and no one cared. Not even me.

What Counts / Dirt Medicine

We, the fossil fuel-addicted, / gather: / AA circles of the present / include true confessions of grief / for lost land and / wayward soil, / disconnection from earth / and mourning / the changing ecology / cars, cars, cars, / and where did all / those trees go?

she came home

the military doesn’t want her / neither do the hospitals or safe houses / I pick her up off of the street / drive her as far from Edmonton / and the military prison as we can get / Club Ed she says soldiers call it


bent head and borrowed bearing / eyes averted and authored by / outward lens / in this factory mass-producing / man’s concept of woman / my seat in the line / was gifted by my mother/ from her mother / and her mother / and her mother


Late that evening, Marie drags the empty stove box from the curb into her backyard and covers it with garbage bags held down by stones and a big stick. She spends the next afternoon with her kitchen scissors making small cuts in the tough side seams....

Island Girl

For sixteen nights she sleeps fitfully in her berth, the contents of her stomach rolling like the ocean. Always on the harsh edge of seasickness but never turning down the elegant evening feasts of foods so savoury, so sweet and thick, she sometimes weeps....

A Profound Call to Serve

Before I became a lay worship leader, however, I’d learned what it meant to be in service when I became a caregiver for my father after he was diagnosed with dementia. This happened in 2002, when my father was sixty years old and before “early onset dementia” was even a type.

Join the Conversation:
The Politics of Poppies

As the politics of poppies illustrates so well, there is no single story of war. At the same time, there is often resistance to hearing different, and sometimes conflicting, stories about war. We invite you, readers of Understorey Magazine, to join this conversation.

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