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The Harvesters

after Peter Brueghel

Why a tree except the world sustains?
The harvesters’ clean whites so far
from town.
Like fountains, water drops of grass heads. Like
postscript, endless roads through Flanders.
Close up, men like lapel buttons

through haloes, mending, mending.
Like snakeskins, white shirts against gold.
The maze leads, panoramic, to the earth’s shelf and
two patrolling birds’ small forms
like masters, thrushes out to play. Cleared
land a coffin slab,

each bundle laid for grave, each harvester
asymmetric to a chrome haystack staggered
into silence (I can hope)
by a thrush more intricate than
whose throaty bone work amplifies an
eagerness for lunch.

The workers whittle out their ground.
Branches shade the bread slicer.
Another sprawls
with embryonic warmth across his
weathered face
beside the trunk, life force shot

from the navel of the earth. In the
town outside the town, haystacks
like the legs
of the new world.
Even past the distant village, more
exploding wheat. A tiny wagon

carts a block of butter, dense but
cuttable, a dune
to feed the township energized, hungry, small and
faraway—ice skaters on a green.
Past them a backdrop behind a screen, the
leaves a lattice.



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