Appointment with Jane Austen
By Tara Bergin
Blushing in a manner out of keeping with my age
(my graying hair, my falling face)
I entered Greyfriar’s Inn.
I was blushing, and out of keeping with my age.
In I went, making my foolish entrance,
folding down my umbrella self-consciously —
aware of the locals at the bar with their gin
and their small talk —
and walked right up to the barmaid,
somewhat brazenly, I thought. One glass of beer,
I said to her, and she, smiling kindly,
pulled it. I stood and waited.
I waited for them all to stop their fond,
for them to stop putting forth their opinions,
and to turn to me and say — in an accusatory way —
What are you doing here? On a Wednesday night?
With an accent we can’t quite identify?
I waited ready:
Why am I here? I would say.
I am here as an imposter, an outsider,
a reluctant admirer of your lovely daughter Jane —
I am here for my Lecture in the Picturesque,
to learn of sidescreens and perspectives,
to learn of window tax and syntax — and “ha-has” —
for harmless gambling in the parlor,
wearing mittens and handworked collars and a pretty amber cross —
I am here to steal a pistol and a spoon found underground,
to rob the peacock feathers streaming from the silly boy’s crown —
I am here, I would say, for sensation —
For sensation? they would say, and I would say:
Yes! Painful sensation of restraint or alarm!
Oh ye patrons of Greyfriar’s Inn, I would exclaim,
I am here to meet your high-waisted Jane,
to embrace her as my comrade; as my brother-in-arms!
I stood and waited. But the good patrons of Greyfriar’s Inn,
they never said a thing; just continued talking amongst themselves,
quietly reminiscing. I paid the barmaid and turned my head.
I looked out at the wet; I looked out at the southwest rain,
and the redbrick houses. I watched the famous silhouette,
gently swinging back and forth above the gate.
I raised the glass to her impassive, sideways face.
Nothing ventured. Nothing gained.