Dear Susan – A Justice Editorial from Guest Editor Laura Barker

Dear Susan. I miss you every day. I planted a cherry tree for you and I am waiting patiently for it to blossom. I also planted a magnolia tree called Susan. Apparently, you can eat the blossoms. The cherry blossoms, and the magnolia blossoms. When I eat them, it’s going to be a holy communion.

Dear Susan. I shaved my head again. I remember during the first lockdown when I shaved it and you got me to turn my head on my WhatsApp camera so you could see it. You said it looked good. Your hair looked good. So glossy and black. I want you to look at me again. I want to feel your eyes on me. I want to look at you.

Dear Susan. This is my first-time guest-editing something. I want to tell you about it, and I want you to be proud of me and tell me well done. You were always so encouraging of other people’s achievements. I didn’t know that much about yours. Natasha was telling me the other day how you were such a big shot in the human rights field. Your workplace held an online call for everyone to gather together and share their memories of you. You were so loved. You are so loved. You made everyone feel special. I found out that when your kids were small you were a fan of the two-second rule for food on the floor. I found out that you entered a paella competition that you definitely thought you won. I found out that you were so open with so many people about having cancer.

Dear Susan. This issue is called Justice. You and I were working on a restorative justice project together that I can’t ever imagine doing without you. I loved our WhatsApp calls and the frown face you made every time you waited for the technology to work. That first call, we talked about the prison industrial complex and harm prevention and the masturbation episode of that Gwyneth Paltrow TV show The Goop and mentorship. I was so flattered and thrilled when you offered to mentor me. When you said this was something you wanted to do with the time that you had left. It was so precious having this year with you.

Dear Susan. It was such a shock when you passed away, even though of course I knew it was going to happen. But I let myself believe it wasn’t going to happen.

Dear Susan. My therapist told me she noticed that I cry a lot. You always welcomed my tears so fully. It feels strange to cry without you holding me. You sat with me for so long when George Floyd was murdered and you said you wanted to give me a big hug. I thought somehow that we would get to hug in real life, after Covid-19, before you passed away. I made it happen in my head.

Dear Susan. It is going to be springtime soon and your cherry tree and your magnolia tree are going to blossom. I’m also planting lettuce named after you, and blackeyed Susans. They are like little sunflowers. Everyone at our meditation group says they remind us of your smile. There is a lily too. I want to plant everything named after you. I want to name everything after you. Saying your name hurts.

Dear Susan. I miss you every day.

Laura Barker is a writer, artist, and facilitator. She runs a queer black writing group in London, UK. Her work has appeared in The Guardian and her YA novel Picnics was shortlisted for the Faber Andlyn BAME (FAB) Prize. She is an Aries Taurus cusp.


Apparition Literary Magazine is funded by the editors and by your kind donations. If you’d like to support us, you can follow us on Facebook or Twitter and please consider donating and/or subscribing via our website.  For 2020, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve increased our pay rate for short stories to $0.03 per word and poetry to $30 flat rate.

Thank you for reading,


Photo by Kevin Butz on Unsplash

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