T’Parson’s Anne

Lisa Russ Spaar Click to

SpaarLisaRuss0806Lisa Russ Spaar is the author of Glass Town (Red Hen Press, 1999), Blue Venus (Persea, 2004), Satin Cash (Persea, 2008) and most recently Vanitas, Rough (Persea, December 2012).  She is the editor of Acquainted with the Night:  Insomnia Poems and All that Mighty Heart:  London Poems.  Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Award, and the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize.  Her poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry series, Blackbird, Ploughshares, and Virginia Quarterly Review, and her commentaries appear regularly in national venues.  She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.  “T’Parson’s Anne” first appeared in Shenandoah 49/1.

–“Anne’s nothing, absolutely nothing.”
C. Brontë, My Angria and the Angrians

This morning she would have me tear
the clothes from the bed we share, grasping
“the snow, the snow, I cannot bear
its weight,” and, sure, her fingers gripping mine

seared, all chilblains, fever, ice.
Eager always to be going forward, away,
what pelting December storm was she mining,
dogged by duty, our mild disdain, and the barking,

tubercular cough that Ellen, who is with us,
ministers to the Godbold’s and carbonate of iron?
We are here at No. 2 Cliff, and outside
it’s still May, Scarborough, the bay guiltless

as a glass of water. Yesterday, she would ride
upon the stony strand in a donkey cart,
all gray bird bones in a quilted pile,
nearly invisible but for the driver’s tender fist

of a face and our own stricken masks,
walking beside her. Still, I tell you,
if one of us was born to bear the weighted task
of a man above, beside, beneath her,

it’s this girl, our “dear little Anne,”
whose motion outshines my ire, and Emily’s
paralyzing instinct, and Branwell’s quick capitulation –
nearly all of us, now, shamed by Death.

Out of Haworth she took herself, and throve
a while without us, and out she would be carried
one last time, in Papa’s arms, to the carriage that strove
to bear her here. And out of bed she rises now,

and will not let me fasten her waist
or move the chamber pot from beneath the bed.
She sits at the window by the sea, place
of the little lie she allowed herself,

drawing small, decided breaths
faithful as the waves below,
their small shoulders hunched for the crash,
an obliterating blizzard of flux and light.