2 Poems by Tess Jolly


What do you do now the bread is eaten, 

the plates washed in the river and stacked,

now you’ve folded away timetables and maps 

to leave the coastal path and turn 

seawards through the silo and salt 

from the farm which seemed as good a place as any 

to ask the driver to stop, now your tent is pitched 

amongst the rocks and the heather 

where you thought you’d never be able to live, 

what new bright thing do you hope for? 

Last night you dreamt of the village again, 

its dark violent streets the woman still trundles 

up and down pushing her barrel of flowers,

the doorsteps and their little piles of bones, 

then you woke to the sun weighing your shadow 

with its accountable needle of light 

and gulls, breathe now, it’s only the gulls,  

lacing your thoughts with their cries.


standing at the threshold my face reflecting 

the buttercupshine of interior light

clusters of ice curled inside ice hotels 

dreaming that today will be different

droplets waiting to grow into their adult forms

liquids turning into solids turning into liquids

plum for embarrassment gooseberry for shame

there are questions I’ve been meaning to ask 

such as what happens when the body moves 

so close to another body it has no choice 

but to stand in its aura of bruises 

observing the infinite florets of thoughts 

does putting something in a poem make it acceptable

first the irrepressible energy then the disgust

when did love become an intellectual construct

will the sickness ever pass will this be enough 

if the point is to get through the day 

what matter the shape or how many sides 

what matter the relationship to mirrors 

will we be asked to show our calculations at the end

with the door to the fields open and the sun 

in benevolent mood I’m grateful for the desire 

to drink so much milk my mouth is the mouth 

to a river where dragonflies dry their wings

and along the banks the merry-go-rounds

of famine and glut by which I mean 

the fear of eating too much of not eating enough 

coating everything in a sweet-sticky glaze

there are places we go when room temperature feels 

unbearable there is the background hum 

of companionship or is this terror 

there are effigies on respectable floats

nothing feels more necessary or more violent 

than vapour condensed into coils there is 

insulin ketchup roulade a half-drunk bottle of wine

About the contributor

Tess Jolly won the Hamish Canham Prize and the Anne Born Prize and has published two pamphlets: Touchpapers (Eyewear) and Thus the Blue Hour Comes (Indigo Dreams). Her first full collection is forthcoming from Blue Diode Press. She works as a library assistant and facilitates creative writing workshops for children.

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