Pieter Bruegel’s The Harvesters: August
The eye must enter this blaze of grain
that comes forward out of the frame,
a blond forest of ripened light.
The fastened sheaves march motionless
on their legs of broken gold.
They are becoming the reason
for this day’s work,
its stack and haul,
in the ocher glaze
of a centuries-old afternoon
the wind rises through
fresh each time we look.
In the distance hills slipcase into hazed air,
where always there will be an ocean waiting
at horizon’s edge
paced by tiny pale silhouettes of ships
that come and go in delicate silence.
A heedless sleeper with emphatic sprawl
makes himself the hub
of this wheel of harvest and hungering,
the closed eye of this fecund calm.
His paused desires are the tight nutmeat
in the shell
of this moment,
secure in the clutch
of all that cannot resist
the spiral in
This poem was first published in Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, by Joseph Stanton, Time Being Books, 1999.
Read The Ekphrastic Review's interview with Joseph Stanton, here.
Joseph Stanton is Professor Emeritus of Art History and American Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has published six books of poems: Moving Pictures, Things Seen, Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban Oahu, Cardinal Points, and What the Kite Thinks: A Linked Poem (co-authored with Makoto Ooka, Wing Tek Lum, and Jean Toyama). Over 500 of his poems have appeared previously in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry, Harvard Review, New Letters, Poetry East, Ekphrasis, Image, Antioch Review, Cortland Review, New York Quarterly, and many others. His awards include the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award, the Ekphrasis Prize, the James Vaughan Poetry Award, the Ka Palapala Pookela Award for Excellence in Literature, and the Cades Award for Literature.
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