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After Camille Pissarro’s Haymaking at Éragny


Pissarro clumped, sculpted, plowed his oil paints
to produce this hayfield: fertile pigments
mixed, molded, together like squelching mud
to cultivate such an agrarian landscape
sown with greens, blues, yellows, browns; his passion
raising pregnant berms with color on this canvas.

Here, between trees, a breeze combs through wheat-sheaves
where a woman works a pitchfork in the grasses,
ordering, processing, a year’s plenty
beside fellow peasants, harvesting what’s needed
for unseen hungry mouths beyond the nearby road
as generous clouds watch over this dominion.

Like these innumerable brushstrokes, many tasks
must exist simply to feed one starving stomach,
and want will win when one does not one’s deed,
rearing, reaping, crafting, trading, giving
for Life, like verse, demands so many rhythms
merely so its Word might serve its object,

yet despite all my verbs, our scene stays pastoral.
It whispers a subtle truth my soul’s ear can hear,
Be fruitful and increase in number – Love
again and again, although this land lies accursed
and sprouts blisters on our palms while the lilies bloom,
for just as our Artist made us, so he will finish his piece.

Nathaniel A. Schmidt’s first collection of poems, An Evensong, is available from Resource Publications, an imprint of Wipf & Stock. He is a student at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan; and lives in Muskegon, Michigan.

Camille Pissarro, self portrait; public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Nathaniel A. Schmidt

Nathaniel A. Schmidt is a chaplain in the Christian Reformed Church and holds degrees from Calvin Theological Seminary, Calvin University, and The University of Illinois, Springfield. His first collection of poems, An Evensong, is available from Wipf and Stock. He lives with his librarian wife, Lydia, and their daughter in Norton Shores, MI, meaning life is a perpetual story-time.