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.

We Don’t Understand Us

You don’t get it.

I can’t get it right.

We don’t understand us.

Nothing of us is understandable. We are complex,

complicated, completely normal

in our abnormal ways. This is how it goes,

how life unfolds for us, for all of us, for always,

forever, ’til death us do part, our carved hearts

entwined in the bloody accident of our meeting,

of our simple act of simply being,

of the living of our ordinary lives.

Husbands and wives.

Neither knows the other, and never will, anyway.

I know you little enough to be able to say

I do not know you, too.

You will always be a mystery to me,

as I will be to you.

And this is true,

love.