The Brontë Parsonage Museum, 1994
The village had, that winter afternoon, the intricacy of solitude—
few walked the ice-slick streets that slope
toward the bus station and heritage train. Peat smoke
scrolled from chimneys offering its taste of boggy after-tang.
The snow that drifted down the dales
dropped like tattered lace. Wind, more wind
to brace against the clouds, in stop-time
motion, crossed the moors. Beneath
the day’s procession, robin, mistle-thrush, redwing;
mosses and heather like anchorites in place.
The Parsonage held out a fugue of hardly vanished voices…
three sisters, resonant against the dark, gathered
at the drop-leaf table scarred with candle-burn and the one lone letter
floating free, a carved “E,” in Emily’s hand or an afterthought
affixed years past the time her pages were set in type.
The stopped clock on the landing halfway up the stairs
explicable, like the museum shop souvenirs
………………………………………………………………..—novels, tea-towels, busts—
stage props from another time
that telegraphed geographies of grief, lady novelists
like Byron, mad, bad, and dangerous to know…Their lives were brief,
though bountiful: they inhabited realms
of imagination, the cramped circumference of their domestic
space enlarged the way a real back lane leads out and upward to the waterfall.
Where is their vanished conversation, verses tuned to sidereal time?
The ghosts of fans and pilgrims surrounded my every step! Was it only
ninety years ago that Woolf walked here, too,
noting the suspense she felt—
…………..as if approaching some long-lost friend?
Brushed with transience, the atmosphere shone in that lost winter:
tea shops with scones and floral brews, the Black Bull’s
ghostly tenant swirling there, palpable as the pulled pints of Branwell bitter.
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