by R. T. Smith
Emily Brontë, passion’s candle
but inclined to excess of brevity –
cliff and heath, ledge and rootsnarl, the human heart,
the human heat, death, stormwood and hedgegnarl. . . .
Rossetti said vis-a-vis the novel, The action
is laid in hell, with English names.
Half Irish, of course, a whole pride of them
scribbling away, less pie than porridge,
a minister’s ken,
Emily woolgathering alone in love with crag and moss,
ghost lanterns in the mist, broken stones, the roe
deer, her life sparse, Spartan, terse,
yet tender, though prone to explosion.
Swooning in private, in thrall to the snarl
of rude speech: yah’ll
niver mend o’ yer ill ways, but goa raight to t’ devil,
like yer mather afore ye!
And ravished by the written word.
An apple fallen into orchard grass
withers, harbors a wasp, her shivering song.
Death is not the sharpest sting.
Her sister said Wuthering Heights was hewn in a wild workshop.
Said as well: Our Emily is a solitude-loving raven.
In all weathers, she worked.
Not meek, but in silence, that music, that gift.
Miss Dickinson thought her verse scandalous but asked
that Brontë’s stanzas “No Coward Is My Soul”
be recited at her grave.
Brontë, from the a Greek root – thunder.
Thrift and energy, her black hours on the moors
were joyous, perhaps, the rogue orchid,
the owls and hawks. Inebriate of air.
She’d savor the occasional nature morte:
a heap of dead rabbits in the bracken
or a plow horse severed from his misery, leg snapped
by a hidden pit the musket barrel close by its ear
after deadfall, snow-spit, the light going but not gone.
Thrushcross Grange, and wind like a scythe.
Gnasher’s growl, Juno’s glare, the badger’s hiss
and weeping in shadows. Noctilucent, her
glee was pure mystery.
Was it a broken heart or consumption, that imp within?
Death loves a shining mark.
She believed the clan’s water source was runoff
from the cold church’s boneyard.
A harrowing cough.
From whence these monsters emerged? Like Regina
to her daughter: Dear Mary Flannery, Misguided
Scribe, from whereabouts did you summon
those foul people in your stories? We have no
such connections. Kindred sisters, the two wordwrights,
both seen as spinsters
and set upon, when young, by dogs.
The silence of a falling star lights up a purple sky.
Stench of a snuffed wick wisping.
The child sleeping in the path of the scythe.
Who will guess the temper of her dreams
or heed the stifled cry?
A deathbed wish: If
you will send for a doctor, I will perhaps see him now.
Too late by months, by many faded moons.
A single novel, a sheaf of angular poems,
lost fables of a conjured kingdom. Call it tragic?
Fierce in isolation. Too discreet? Too thrifty? Just
thirty at the end (a week before Christmas). Black frost.
Heath and hare-bells or the quiet earth,