Friday, 13 January 2006


Dappled dusty rays dance
On well-worn smoke-laden upholstery.
I lean back in the unforgiving oak chair,
a battered copy of Jane Eyre in hand,
overwhelmed by the passionate, witty exchanges
between her and the treacherous Rochester.
Flipping pages, madly scribbling notes,
I begin, in my warm solitude,
to hear the laughter of patrons,
their loud voices competing for the floor,
the publican drawing rounds
of foam-headed dark ale.
here at the Black Bull,
his own father’s church
looming powerfully beside,
watchful, judging.
And Branwell?
Did he feel it?
No, he felt only the drink,
I think to myself,
as I watch the steam from my cup
of richly-brewed coffee, two parts milk,
coil into the hazy view,
today and yesterday
melting into that brief moment
of sun on tired chintz-covered benches.

I walk decidedly
on the cobblestone path,
my bag slung loosely over my shoulder.
I hear a distant echo,
horses’ shod hooves
clattering unevenly.
The fog is held captive, a heavy
damp shroud possessed by the moors.
I perceive in the wandering light
a mossy gravestone, fungus-inhabited letters—
H E A T H C L I F F, it says,
and for a suspended interval,
it is wholly believable
that he should
occupy this ground.
I am stone still,
caught between the pages,
party to his desperate clawing at
Catherine’s coffin;
his meeting death without resignation,
joining her at last.

The loud voices at the Black Bull
fill my head;
Branwell returns to the frame.
The weak soul
of one
bound to the
savage cruelty
of the other—
and I mourn
their passing,
each one.

Carolyne Van Der Meer

(Pictured above in Haworth at the Brontë Society Education Conference in September 2004)

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