for all the aunties who raise us

I am the daughter
you wanted—
It’s all I wanted—to be
anywhere but here:
a broken heart—a stroke—

My lonely. You have orphaned me—

Please come back to bowling
alley bathrooms; I’ll scream
you aren’t the boss of me
& you can pull my hair
with lies & threats
& after—scoop me up
carry me outside, dream
me into stars & hold me
into sleep—My fierce
& demanding—

I will live with you all those times
again—furniture rearranged
from wall to window—your hunger
for color: everything highlighter
yellow, neon pink—My bright
& burning—I’ll give up
black & grey for orange & red
& all shades of blue—here—

My careful—My hands
can braid, can put on
a face, can open a drink
an avocado, my hips
to music—I will ask you still
about the lyrics—you
so skeptical of words
& distrustful of time—I know
now we don’t have to
live a year twice
the same way—

& when you left for Georgia
& why you came back—me

My older me—What your body said
as it wasted down past
muscle to bone, as the trash
piled up & the animals wrapping
their warmth around you parted
to let me in—There were drugs,
of course—My unseen—

I should hold you guilty
for so much neglect: of your own children—
for disdain: of the brother I loved—
for the men in my whole life—
I should call you to account—for never
casting back at our mothers—I believed
in your power—My fragile—My ashamed—

But I cannot hate you—for all
you broke—My broken—I
still hear you sneak
past the whole house seething—
silent into the dark room
where I cry—I feel you
lift my head onto your lap
the accidental tangle
of your hand caught
in my hair, your tears
covering my face—

Artist’s Statement
Although my Aunt V died several years ago, I woke up one morning last year and found myself overcome with the grief of not having her in my life, with the unbearable sadness of having not been able to say goodbye. She is so present for me in all the small things of living. The practical skills she taught me and her way of seeing the world never leave me, and I find myself reaching toward her as I’m learning to parent my daughter. My aunt was my first hero, my first ally—my bright & beautiful.

Sherre Vernon (she/her/hers) is the author of two award-winning chapbooks: Green Ink Wings (fiction) and The Name is Perilous (poetry). Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and anthologized in several collections, including Bending Genres and Best Small Fictions. In 2019, Sherre was a Parent-Writer Fellow at MVICW. Readers describe her work as heartbreaking, richly layered, lyrical, and intelligent. To read more of her work visit and tag her into conversation @sherrevernon.