Bruegel-Hunters in the Snow and Other Poems


Bruegel-Hunters in the Snow

It’s a postcard reproduction, a little too big
for a recipe card, but a recipe anyway, stew
written all over this rustic scene, the snow
white as potatoes and onions brought cold
from a cellar and peeled, the rest all ruddy
brothy browns. It’s too late in the season
for carrots, not one dab of that orange,
and any tomatoes are still in the New World,
yet to be cooked with in Flanders. Whatever’s
available here will get dropped into the pot
with a pinch of black pepper, like the skaters
sprinkled over the pond. Everyone’s starved
in this mountainside village, the three bent
disappointed hunters, twelve drooling dogs
at their heels, the four aproned women
feeding sticks to a fire in the background,
and the frozen slope now suddenly fragrant
with the dream of rabbit, of chewy legs
bubbling for hours in a kettle. But that rabbit,
so clever, has yet to be snared, and the hunters,
embarrassed, afraid to go home, stomp
downhill dejected, their stupid sharp sticks
on their shoulders. The three motionless birds
perched in the trees are awaiting the scraps,
and the one other bird, a magpie or shrike
just now flying away, will turn slowly around
on the tip of a wing and come gliding back
into the frame, but this when we’re no longer
finding so much in the picture and have set it
aside, the bird winging in for the succulent
stew bones that aren’t to be found in the snow.

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