by Maureen Seaton and Denise Duhamel, 1997
From Prarie Schooner, Vol. 71, No. 4 (Winter 1997), p. 92
Jane poured molasses in her cousins' loafers.
She was just ten- burnt porridge for breakfast
and trips to the red-room for discipline, fast
spankings and slow recoveries. Bessie
made monkey faces behind Sarah Reed,
Jane's mean aunt, let Jane lick the cake batter
in secret. Then it was on to Lowood where
unflattering jumpers with little pockets
made her hips look like pudgy birds' nests.
She was the original Plain Jane,
Jane Doe, Calamity Jane, the best Jane
for the job. The Janes who came after her -
Girl Fridays, hash-slingers no longer lured
towards dull husbands - learned self-reliance from her.
Rochester had a wife but who can blame him
for wanting more than mad sex, a diet
of mutton and morose chatter? The quiet
had driven Bertha nuts, Rochester brooding
in his poppy garden, needing soothing
girl-hands to heal him. Hadn't his French mistress
done enough damage? Jane forgave him for Blanche
though she no longer liked white or blanched peas
and she practiced vindictive stitchery
with the best. Meanwhile Grace Poole's love of gin
kept her from finking. If she'd begin
speaking of Bertha, she was sure to doze off.
If Mr. Briggs, that practioner of
law, hadn't suddenly spoken up, what then?