LANDSCAPE WITH PEASANTS

The footsteps of bored guards echo in the empty galleries.
A homeless patron wheels a laundry cart around.
Despite free admission, the place is empty,
these are the only sounds; and it’s easy to get lost
in the bleak, rural Dutch 17th century.

Beneath a cloudy, unforgiving sky,
two figures tramp down a muddy lane
toward a house half-hidden behind gnarled trees.
Cattle graze beside a river.
Beyond torn fencing fields recede.

Gazing into these serenely battered bygone scenes,
one is reminded of real life, real weather:
that it might still be out there somewhere.
Not here, far removed from European culture,
at the very edge of the western hemisphere.

Where, on a hollow, cloudless day
the collection’s fragile incongruity is quickly wiped away
by the umpteenth oblivious jogger running by
with a head set on.

There’s nothing in the air.
The sun, subtly vampiric, barely brushes against a world
where everything and nothing is in bloom:
a seductive vacuity, of lifeless trees
and lives of ease and loud complacency,
as soothing and beautiful as a cartoon.

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