The Aunt

A photo of author Hannah Lowe
photo:  hayley madden

The Aunt vanished one autumn. Left the house,
the children, the Uncle with his twitching beard.
If I wanted her, I searched in photographs:
the Aunt, sublime in a Pucci wedding dress
and intellectual glasses; elephantine
in blue maternity; at a birthday party,
balloon in hand, trapped behind a beam
of winter light.
                          The Aunt could also be,
less accurately, remembered: bent to light
a cigarette, her thumb hammering a clipper,
over and over.
                          A year ago, the Aunt
stood ahead of me in a queue for visas
at the Indian Embassy, beside the woman
the family hated. My heart in mouth, I called
and called her name, until she turned and gave
a tiny secret wave, then turned away,
                           and didn’t turn again.

Born to an English mother and a Jamaican-Chinese father, Hannah Lowe is the author of Chick (2013), which won the Michael Murphy Memorial Award for Best First Collection and was shortlisted for the Forward, Aldeburgh, and Seamus Heaney Best First Collection prizes. Her second collection, Chan (2016), is based on her research in migration and mixed-race studies, drawing on the life of Joe Harriott, the Jamaican alto saxophonist who made his name in 1950s London, and Jamaican migrants who traveled from Kingston to Liverpool in 1947 on the SS Ormonde. She has also published a family memoir, Long Time, No See (2015).