Because the world is so faithless, I go my way in mourning. (Pieter Bruegel)
Paintings ask viewers to do many things,
like how to see them in their time.
No names help color Bruegel’s staring scene, make sense of
bending people with blunt faces and harsh clothes.
Bruegel’s Adoration does not adore the child nor worship the mother.
His big people spread as though in shock, slanted close,
Suddenly all alone together.
Bruegel could always catch the light of people
in their movements, dancing, falling, adoring, running.
Here, he wraps people in strange stillness,
Terminally alone together, this world a floating sea of particularities.
His reconfigured snapshot
of an old story bursts out of tradition,
Mary talks silent with a wide hand.
Older Joseph listens behind her blue plainness.
Sweet Jesus throbs wild, ratcheting in his reaching.
Many look one-eyed at what’s so hard to see.
Close up, faces blur smeared in their bones.
Balthasar, kingly vertical in red boots,
steady with that mystical gift.
This Adoration obscures that blue-capped,
scruffy loner squeezed small
in a corner where outsiders are left to be.
This spray of color and angles,
is not a painting to look past at.
It is a painting to consume, for your eyes to eat.
It is a Bruegel-brilliant plunge into the modern disturbance,
This Copernican revolution of the solitary mind gnawing at its people.
© Linda E. Chown
Ed ‒ The painting is in the possession of The National Gallery, London.