Tess Jolly

Tess Jolly

The Gate

Not field or lamp post or road  
but the gate is all that’s asked of you     

as you come down from the ridge      
you’ve been walking for years:       

on one side the valley is a guard dog sleeping,      
on the other the estuary glints with wishes.       
Take the path through the wood    
that turned out to be just a few trees

and a pond where your ghost throws bread; 
here’s the swing that reduces the village

to the unravelled thread of an alley    
where you hid your first acorn hoard.    
You’ll know you’re on the right track      
when the corner shop comes into view   

with its optics of liquorice and gobstoppers,   
aniseed balls you dissolved on your tongue  

for the sugar-crystal pip pressed at the core  
like a watermark into notepaper;   

don’t stop at the derelict bus shelter    
where the stone man waits with his globe

and your mum’s still explaining   
where to get off and what exactly to ask for.   

After the kiosk, the gossiping puppets,   
the tattooed birch at the end of the lane,

follow the fence with its fringe of dying
leaves as far as the opening. No key

is required to cross these outer borders,
just a willingness to return.

Let the rusty latch fold back into place
like a glottis; all that’s left to do now

is to walk past the garages where residents
keep their ladders and ropes,

and approach the front door – still spooked
by the gargoyle baring its teeth,

by the lamp that pans from the dark
those exemplary hanging baskets.

TESS JOLLY has published two pamphlets: Touchpapers (Eyewear) and Thus the Blue Hour Comes (Indigo Dreams). Her first full collection, Breakfast at the Origami Café, is published by Blue Diode Press.