Aunt Vi

She lived down a small hill under the lilacs,
that all-smell of spring and full-shade of summer.
The rain was loudest at night, I recall,
because the spare bedroom was under the rafters
and the train ran so near that it rattled the windows.

She is, I believe, still there, a flittering wren
with us nieces and nephews in that tiny nest
made out of her doilies and lace.
Fifty years on and still she sings to me,
light and delicate, so that there’s a flutter,
(when I remember) deep in my throat
where the true self catches and warbles.

My maternal grandfather was married twice. Aunt Vi (for Violet) was the eldest of the first family, my mother the eldest of the second; to my mother, Aunt Vi was more a beloved step-mother than an older half-sister. She would, my mother always say, Start cleaning the ashtray before you were finished, if you let her! Aunt Vi tried to make everything perfect around her because she knew how delicate life was; but despite this, she lived her life selflessly. The fact that she and Uncle George had no children, was, I came to understand later, the tragedy of all our lives.

I never knew any of my grandparents, so Aunt Vi and her husband George remain the only grandparent figures I knew growing up. She suffered greatly in life and both met and rose above that pain with dignity and grace.  I, and my sister, are profoundly indebted to her for her love and her example, and are proud to cherish her memory today.

I have been privileged to mention her before in two other poems, The Royal Stores and Gone in the blood. Thank you for reading Aunt Vi. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph (from Google maps) is of the spot my aunt’s and uncle’s house used to be. Much road work has been done in the area to level the land and build a road where the train tracks used to run behind their property. I really wish they had re-planted lilacs there. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge, The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.



Filed under Poetry

2 responses to “Aunt Vi

  1. Pete Hulme

    Good to see you back on line, John. An evocative and touching poem.

    • Pete, very kind of you to drop by and leave a note. Thank you! I am not sure I am ‘back’ unless I can keep up some level of consistency. I hope to. We’ll see! 🙂