Errand Hanging with Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë’s Shopping Trolley, drawing by Conrad Atkinson, 2009, coloured pencil, watercolour, printing, and acrylic paint on paper

Let’s admit it’s good to get out

in streets no longer emptied

by plague. That we’re over winter,

the camo leggings of quarantine

fashion. I’ll take Emily at her word: of ways

to be ordinary, this might be

fun—pushing trolleys with uncertain

finesse past fitness gurus gathering

cacao nibs & community-traded

tea. I could use a sister to interrogate

my knowledge of toxins & need

for another pair of super-soft jeans. Watch me

lean in when the gossip gets good—her brother’s

negligence in keeping accounts, the neighbors’

Twitter feuds, the family still fuming

over her brief flirtation with Occupy.

No one would call her queasy. Still,

she’ll query the butcher about

the origins of the Irish salmon,

the dry-rubbed baby back ribs.

She’s writing songs now—do I think

the vocals could use more reverb? Smoky cocktails

& sliding cheeseboards are delightful

distractions, if not promising cures.

She’d say a trolley (from dialect, low cart

with flanged wheels) is a proper shiny

conveyance good for gathering books

& greens, though I notice linnets & butterflies

are already flying free of its bars.

The aesthetics of business are ugly but

Emily makes short work of the weekly shop.

Farewell, green ivy, feathered fern,

fall leaf. At the farmer’s market, we’ll admire

the varietals—Sungold, Apero, Gardener’s

Delight—& how they signal a lateral move

through harvest, forage, & feast. She’ll toast

our pact to ditch doomsday novels, swap

stress-relief jewelry for time in the dirt, hands

upturning earth’s microbiome for health.

Let’s admit we all could use a companion

in times of vanishing seasons.

Jane Satterfield’s new book, The Badass Brontës, is a winner of the Diode Editions Book Prize and will appear in 2023. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in poetry, the 49th Parallel Award for Poetry from Bellingham Review, the Ledbury Poetry Festival Prize, and more. Recent poetry and essays appear in The Common, Ecotone, Orion, Literary Matters, Missouri Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is married to poet Ned Balbo and lives in Baltimore.