On the notice board of the Methodist Church –
on the opposite side of the street
from where I sit at my desk typing this –
is a poster. It is a colour photograph.
In the foreground is a wooden five bar gate.
Once I am certain there are no prisoners,
like me, at their exercise – voluntary
exiles walking their dogs in the middle
of the road avoiding others in lycra –
I go over for a closer look. The gate
is shut. Beyond is pastoral land rising
to low green hills. The caption reads: Jesus said,
“I am the gate.” I return and google.
Ah, a parable! But King James’ smart divines
have the gate as a door to a sheepfold.
So there ought to be a small flock of sheep,
at least, as well as the bearded shepherd
pour encourager les autres. I go back,
again looking out for cyclists and strollers.
The field is empty but for the odd thistle.
I look carefully at the gate. There is
a weathered sign. ‘Please keep closed at all times’.
Later I look up from the laptop.
The ukulele class is surreptitiously
leaving the church hall one by one two metres
apart. On the building’s main roof ridge
there are magpies, an octet, all facing
the same way, teetering in the east wind.
One for sorrow, two for joy…eight for a wish.
I hear them singing each to each. ‘I’m leaning
on the lamp post at the corner of the street…’