Our Joyce

Walking into a city centre shop

a year or two back, or perhaps longer,

I did a double take and stopped in the doorway.

I turned and called out her name.

She turned and looked around.

It took a moment for her to see me

but no time at all to know me.

She saw me but said nothing.

She walked up and wrapped her arms around me

tight, like a bond,

squeezed with a strength I hadn’t expected

from this woman so much smaller

than the one in my memory.

She squeezed hard and then kissed me

harder, full face, on the lips,

in the doorway of a busy shop in the city centre.

I glowed. I burned, but not with embarrassment.

“Oh, love,” she said.

That was what burned me,

the heat of her love, pure, simple, and unashamed,

standing there in a stream of sniffy shoppers.

“Oh, love,” she said, again, “oh, it’s lovely to see you.”

That voice. Deep, broad, still powerful, still warm,

overflowing with feeling, her father’s voice,

loud and tuneless and wonderful,

speaking to me from when I was a child,

when I thought as a child.

The voice of Joyce, our Joyce.

We spoke and kissed again.

I can’t remember anything that she said.

That wave of love washed them out of my mind,

the words of Joyce who was born Kay.

My sister called the other day.

She told me Joyce has got that evil thing

that steals your marbles one by one.

More proof, as if we needed it,

that there is no God.

A Vignette

What have you been doing?

Oh nothing much.

What does that mean?

Nothing much. This and that. Pottering.

Pottering?

Yes. Feeding the plants. Weeding. Bit of pruning. Bits and bats. Pottering.

Is that all? It’s pathetic.

No, it’s not all, actually. The main thing I’ve been doing is avoiding you.

Sunlight Through Petals

The garden at dawn, early morning

outside space.

Sunlight shines through petals.

Mere purple turns to violet,

white shines brighter; the light

illuminates the tight spun-sugar wires of webs

linking leaf to stem, bud to branch.

It is too early for the human stain.

Ants crawl by my feet, just as busy and aimless.

Birds sing to me, trilling cadences

thrilling the ear with their unfathomable

messages of life and hope.

There is a faint perfume, the residue of some

night scented bloom

that needs the intimacy of night

to hide it’s beauty.

From three million miles away

the sun paints my face with warmth.

The empty, cloudless sky

has never been more blue.

This world is a wonder.

If I have to leave it,

let it be on a day like this,

not wrapped in the shrouded gloom

of bedclothes and room.

Let me go out

outside,

smiling.

Losing My Mind

Maybe it’s the times. Maybe it’s the lack of self-space.

Maybe it’s just that I’m getting old and even more Leary,

but I seem to be losing my mind.

My captive thoughts are escaping their brain cells,

running away from me like ungrateful rats

deserting a shrinking wit.

Concentrating is taking a frustrating effort,

although in truth it was never easy for me

and my fluttering butterfly mind

to keep a single thought in my head

when there were so may others to be thunked.

They wander in now from the corners of my mind,

like creeping jeepers in a horrorshow, and I’m afraid

that is what the next feature may be.

Hanging on to threads, following them through

before they unravel and I am lost in the backwoods

of my brain, just keeping hold of thoughts

seems to be getting harder.

Oh, well.

I’m not going to worry.

If I did lose my mind,

how would I know?

Maybe madness is normal in times like these.

I Think Of It All

When the only thing you have to do is live,

not make or earn or serve or do,

what you do instead is think.

You think about you.

You always think about you,

but not always so purely,

so completely,

so utterly focused

on you.

And when you think too much,

you start to think like this.

You are not just part of existence,

you are all of it,

because without you,

without you as the witness

to the star farms and quarks,

the sound of seashore surf,

to jasmine scent, or the smell

of a wordless child’s head,

to the unutterable beauty

of bird feathers and snowflakes,

without you as the witness,

it is not there.

The Coughing Dodgers

They always were the dying breed,

these older souls, they’ve always been

here just for now but not for long,

and very soon they will be gone,

though sooner now for some old codgers,

the sickly ones, the coughing dodgers,

the ones whose race is almost run,

whose final song will soon be sung.

They’re dying now in herds and droves

in helpless homes with caring folks

who sit with them and let them know

how loved they were, who let them go,

then wonder if that final kiss

has left them, too, a dying gift.

We saw them all, our old grand farters

together with our great gross mutters,

we saw their crimped-up pastry faces,

the saggy bums held up with braces,

the runny eyes and dewdrop noses,

the accidental fly exposures,

the legs held in parentheses,

the martyrs to their chuffin’ knees,

the orificial sproutifoliage,

the clothes that wore the morning porridge;

we heard their shaky, cackled words

and could not make out what they were,

we smelled that ancient trailing stench

that followed everywhere they went,

we tasted bleach in every kiss,

these are the things you’re going to miss.

I miss them now, I miss them still.

I always have. I always will.

I Am Untouchable

Looking at my hands, fingers,

wondering at all the things

that linger there. These hands

have touched so much,

held on and let go, and

now I know that they may hold

the end of those I love.

So I will pray, though not to God.

My hands will meet

just as they should,

in supplication to the greater

good, for hands together touch

each other and no other.

Touching me untouches you.

leaves you isolated, inviolate,

and safe. Keep it that way.

Don’t touch me now, don’t

ask for trouble. Keep your

hands to yourself.

I am untouchable.