Persuasions #12, 1990                                                                                                                                            Page 87


At Chawton



Indianapolis, IN


Under the oak tree you planted

the guide lectures a new group of tourists.

Soon she will show them the drawing room,

your jewelry,

your music on the fragile spinet,

and a first edition of Pride and Prejudice

once owned by the wife of William Lamb.


She will lead them to the dining parlor,

to the collection of silhouettes,

the Wedgewood you chose,

the stove that warmed you,

the portrait of your brother.

She will identify your writing table.


Leaving, she’ll make the hall door creak,

smile, say, “Jane valued this –

it warned her when someone was coming.”


Upstairs, they’ll see your bedroom –

the quilt you made, your silk shawl,

the cup-and-ball you played with

when your eyes hurt too much to write –

the room laughter spilled out of

when you read scenes to your sister.


We are laughing in your garden,

picnicking on strawberries and cream

in rare English sunshine.

The guide frowns to quiet us.


But it is lovely,

in the middle of our lives,

to be amazed –


that your tree can shade us,

that your blue delphiniums

are taller than we are,

that in another century

you glanced up from your spindly table

and saw all

that surrounds us.

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