Issue 14 (2018): Age

Five Years Old

This autumn, Understorey Magazine turns five. As editor-in-chief for those five years, I have learned a thing or two about the creative process, about art and time. These ideas have inspired our issue on age.

Words Fail Me

Snow is falling in my brain, gentle, / relentless. It starts with a small silence, / a gap / in the easy rhythm of talk. A familiar word fails / to arrive. / Bewildered by the changing landscape, / beginning to be frightened, I push on . . .

Big Chop

“No regrets, right?” Patti questioned and ordered at once, as she continued to cut. “No regrets,” Grace echoed, while thinking of things she had in fact regretted---the too-corporate work, the years spent seeking approval from family and friends . . .

You Can Do Better Than That

One woman walking toward us stopped and said to me, “Well, aren’t you the sandwich generation.” Yes, yes I was. My days were full of caregiving from the moment I woke up until I laid my head on the pillow at bedtime.

The Stations of Her Loss

It came with first breath, / with a baptism from holy waters, with a slap / that knocked you into the noise of time. / It came, as always, with numbered / fingers and toes, a severed cord, a split brain, / division and oblivion; / a gift and a loss . . .


If my mind could go back in time and inhabit the body of my seven-year-old self, I would get on my bike, get out of that circle and ride the wrong way down a six-lane highway or straight into a wall, jumping off at the last second.

The Reclamation

When young I ran / loose and barefoot / Over partially colonised fields / and tide-transmuted rock. / Not pausing to consider the life / crushed underfoot / Or the millennia sharply pressed / into my tender arches . . .

Animal Kingdom

Richie and I were almost finished our morning constitutional, once around the lake, when he sprang it: "Why don’t we have a baby?" The call of a passing loon muzzled my response as I stooped to pat a French bulldog, a veritable blob of lard on the trail.

Badass Orla

Even with her failing eyesight, Orla can conjure up shapes in the dark like a magic lantern show. Cormorants wheeling over the Irish Sea, a pooka in the guise of a white hare. By some miracle, she doesn’t have to pee all night.

Two Poems

You are so young. You are so ripe. / Cinema lights are bright and bold. / Dalit untouchable is she. / Unbutton more, the director nudges. / Hijra with henna hands is she. / You look so young . . .


My figment, my flirt, my false friend, / who do you favour? What’s your fee? You can depend / on craters and valleys and friction / to warn — you will not be able to flaunt your fiction / forever. You are mine . . .

To Dye or Not to Dye

To dye or not to dye, that is the question: / Whether ‘tis nobler to let the grey hairs win / And reveal the age she truly is, / Or to take arms against the march of time / And hit the Clairol aisle at Shoppers . . .

Our Lady of Thermodynamics and
The Rapture of Crazy Jane

Ageing takes guts. . . . Parsing our way through some bodily change, my partner asked “Is this normal? Is this what is supposed to happen?” I answered, “I don’t know. I’ve never been this old before.”

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