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.