Wednesday, October 1, 2014

To Charlotte Bronte

To Charlotte Bronte

You wrote my favorite book.
But would you have liked me -
tall, heavy, dark-haired
Like the painting of Cleopatra
That you scorned,
With eyes dark as coals
And something of a temper?
I would have loved to write
In tiny letters, as you did:
Spare, carefully inked in.
But my handwriting, when legible,
Tends to flourish-ridden and grand.

I visited both Haworth and Brussels,
Your home and your nemesis.
The wind screamed wonderfully
In Haworth, and shivered
Through less-than-heated rooms.
But I had a wonderful cream tea
In  town.

In Brussels
The plaque with your name
Had been removed,
But the map still showed
The school.
Now a film center,
It still bore the marks
Of the garden,
The forbidden alley
And the spy casement.
As I stood there,
The school swam
Like a bottled genie
Into the terrace
And vanquished the film center.
I could hear whispers and laughter
In French and Flemish
And see you as you wrote
In loneliness, pride and longing
To the brilliant, cynical professeur
Who broke your heart.

Rain flew down in gusts.
One hundred fifty years
hence, and the park
was still wide-pathed
and quiet.
The church you prayed in
Still echoed your words:
“Mon pere, je suis Protestante.”

I, a Jew, repeated them
As if to summon you.
What would you have thought?
Would the exchange
Have ended in friendship?
Or would you have looked,
Sneered and walked on?

A tall man with a sign
Sat on the steps.
He needed money.
I palmed a five-franc bill
Into his hat,
And wondered
If you would have done
The same.

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