A Picture By Brueghel: Landscape With Icarus Falling


Brueghel was right—
everyone sees
nothing at least
once in the life
of a tragedy.
To the left,
in the painting,
a tenant farmer
walks behind a horse—
four centuries
of ploughing
and not once
has he dropped
his seed.
The light here
will be taken
without footnote
by Monet.
Yet the fallen
boy beating
the sea with
broken wings
is less
than the ship
sailing by
with its paint-thick hold
full of slaves
from Mozambique.
Or the shepherd
staring away so
intent at nothing
his eyes
gouge out.
Such private things
with public weight.
He was wrong,
the old master,
about suffering.
It does not ascend
beyond its human
like Icarus to myth—
but profits
beneath paint
(a scream through water)
in parenthesis.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER. Get the weekly roundup from The Walrus, a collection of our best stories, delivered to your inbox. Learn More »

Elsewhere on TheWalrus.ca