High School, our 20th issue, is on the way! To celebrate, we’re publishing a series of poetry and illustration that celebrate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hopeless, funny, moving, or just plain embarrassing.

How Art Would Save Us by Amelia Garvin
How Art Would Save Us by Amelia Garvin


By Esther McPhee

Ten years out of high school, I watch six seasons
of Glee in three months. It’s embarrassing to admit this

but when they burst into song I got that shining
feeling again. You know, that cocktail of conviction

and desperation that insists something inside of you
is important enough to become a poem.

If graduation was when I wedded myself to real life
(rent, grocery bills, the kind of heartbreak that makes you sober

and cautious), then I’m on my tin anniversary,
year of brittle metal. I remember high school pretty well

and I’m sure it was neither as cruel nor as gay as it is on TV.
I’m sure I spent whole semesters dreaming of a kiss

that would shock my fist open the way Kurt’s hand uncurls
when Blaine falls onto his mouth that first time, like water finally

after a long thirst. I cried after that scene the way I cried
when I found out a senior had killed himself

over spring break. I knew he was gay even though
I’d only talked to him twice in the hallway. We all knew

he was perfect. In a building made of pretending
no one else existed, he met your eyes

whenever he walked past. There was no song
for how immediately he disappeared. Just static.

Everything is pain and magic when your dreams
are as big as stadiums. Once in a while I want to remember

how completely I believed art could save anything
—anyone—when I was sixteen.


Esther McPhee is a genderqueer writer, magic-maker and organizer who lives in a cozy collective house and reads a lot of kids books. They hold an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and co-organize a queer reading series called REVERB. Find out more about Esther here. “REMEMBER HOW WE FELT ABOUT ART AT SIXTEEN” will also appear in SAD Mag‘s upcoming issue: High School. 

Amelia Garvin is a painter and illustrator who has exhibited her work in group shows across Vancouver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here. 


Look out for High School Poetry on Tuesdays on sadmag.ca.

Due to a design error, the version of this poem that appears in SAD‘s print issue is centered rather than flush left as the poet intended. To Esther McPhee, to the poetry community, to our dear readers, we extend an embarrassed, heartfelt, left-aligned apology. 

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