Aunt Joan

My aunt is disappearing
along with all the small talk, the old stories
the laughs…
Sometimes, when I visit
her eyes flash
for an instant
with an old light
before she disappears again into the mist.
She still has a phone, still knows how to push the big button marked KATE.  She doesn’t call much anymore, but sometimes, at odd hours, she will call and clear as a bell, call me ‘kiddo’ like the old days and say she loves me.  But mostly she can’t hear me. She’s forgotten her hearing aids –
I say I love her.
She hears that and answers,
‘I know. We are so lucky to have each other.’
But more often than not, she can’t hear me.
In these moments, she is pouring out beautiful messages
of love and devotion and pray for me,
I need your prayers
but she can’t hear any of my responses.
She grumbles, ‘I can’t hear you’
but also ‘anyway, I love you, kiddo’–
godlike expressions of love
like the mysterious no-man’s land
between this life and the next
between us, the still-living and our beloveds
who have gone before.
We tell them we love them and what would we be without them.
They are answering us
but we can’t hear them
through that thin veil of there and here.

Kate Sullivan likes to play around with words, music and pictures. She is the author/illustrator of two children’s books, On Linden Square and What Do You Hear? A linguist by training, she is also an award-winning composer and performer. Her one-woman theatre piece LENYA! won the Independent Reviewers of New England prize and her Fugitum Est was premiered by The Kremlin Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. She has given many solo performances, singing, playing the piano, guitar or, on special occasions, the musical saw.


  1. Khani Begum says

    Your poem about Joan catches the simultaneous sense of love and loss beautifully. Do write more about your relationship and share with those who are sending their prayers over Joan’s way and yours.

    • Kate Sullivan says

      Oh Khani, thank you so much for checking in. I have written volumes about Joan. She is teaching me every day. She has left such a trail of love in her life – a reminder to us all that love is what matters in this life!

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