Night

“I found Branwell ill—he is so very often owing to his own fault— . . . No one in the house could have rest— . . . He has written to me this morning and . . . promises amendment on his return—but so long as he remains at home I scarce dare hope for peace in the house . . .”
….. ….. —Charlotte Brontë to Ellen Nussey, 31 July, 1845
….. ….. Juliet Barker, The Brontës: A Life in Letters

“. . . we are all in decent health–only that papa has a complaint in his eyes and with the exception of B. who I hope will be better and do better, hereafter.”
….. ….. —Emily Brontë, Diary Paper, Thursday, July 30, 1845

Emily Brontë speaks

When the last rays of light gutter
the front room’s fire, one’s thrown
back to tinder time. Our weather
lately has been far from fine—sudden
storms seize the moor, shredding
snowdrops, crocuses, the season’s
whole emergent green. Forget
the haggard hawthorn bush—
the wind will exercise its wiles, wild
currents only ravens ride. By day
we are not idle, plotting to counter
future debt. The cooking gives me time
to practice my German, parse the phrases
of sonatas—major, minor, the remembered
voice of time’s familiar instrument. Still I
cannot do all I wish and drive away
Branwell’s chronic tales of woe: schemes
of love run aground, a gentlewoman’s graspings
mistaken for heroic love. We’ve slept little since
the night Branwell blazed through dreams,
dense with opium and drink, to lace
his room with a fire only my quick-thinking
doused. The damaged counterpane,
I told Charlotte, was the least of it.
Each soul must stand sentinel
against its own undoing. Though we
hope for better, I’ll be the one to mind
the lock hereafter. It may be hours
until voices spill into the alley, the Bull’s
guests gone their ways, addle-browed
and uneasy with carousing.
And Branwell there, loud among them,
lingering on, then storming in, a wake
of tears and broken vases… I’ll keep
watch and turn to work. The rising
moon is as good as any calculating clock.
A gathering of paper scrap is spark enough,
ink spilled across the page: a path.

Jane Satterfield

Jane Satterfield

Jane Satterfield is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the recipient of awards in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bellingham Review, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Mslexia, and more. Her books of poetry are Her Familiars, Assignation at Vanishing Point, Shepherdess with an Automatic, and Apocalypse Mix, winner of the 2016 Autumn House Poetry Prize; her nonfiction includes the book Daughters of Empire: A Memoir of a Year in Britain and Beyond and recent essays in Hotel Amerika, Superstition Review, Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine, and Diagram. New poems may found at The Common, Nelle, Hopkins Review, Interim, and more. She is married to poet Ned Balbo and lives in Baltimore.
Jane Satterfield

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Author: Jane Satterfield

Jane Satterfield is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the recipient of awards in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bellingham Review, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Mslexia, and more. Her books of poetry are Her Familiars, Assignation at Vanishing Point, Shepherdess with an Automatic, and Apocalypse Mix, winner of the 2016 Autumn House Poetry Prize; her nonfiction includes the book Daughters of Empire: A Memoir of a Year in Britain and Beyond and recent essays in Hotel Amerika, Superstition Review, Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine, and Diagram. New poems may found at The Common, Nelle, Hopkins Review, Interim, and more. She is married to poet Ned Balbo and lives in Baltimore.