Audio: Read by the author.
In Williams’ Pictures from Breughel they go round
and around, those peasants pounding the ground
with their clogs and their boots to the sound
of the fiddles and sackbuts. True, nothing profound
there, just a rollicking midsummer dance with the stout-
rumped male and female, those suds-sodden faces caught
in a moment both comic and sad. But haven’t we all thought
of ourselves our own lives circling round and about
in time’s turning, atuning, aturning, left hand
and right reaching out in a wheel like the spheres
in their own solemn round dance, pivoting round
like wheels circling some invisible maypole, at its center
a ringdance of the blessèd, the way Fra Angelico
reveals in his Judgment, that angelic choir gazing as if into
your soul as others gaze upward, the radiant glow
of that sea-changing moment, now and forever, hoy hoya ho.
Remember the wheel at the Tuileries those long years
ago? The fear as you stared down into the dark? Or your steer-
ing wheel locking, as if gripped by some angel, that car
heading for you before it somehow veered off? The sheer
terror of that, then the awe and relief? Or the truck pound-
ing its way into your poor mother’s car, the sick sound
as it shredded the door? Oh God, the round of the days, each bound
for oblivion, the hours and minutes going round and around,
reminding us daily of what must come in the end? Timor
mortis conturbat me, sings the old song, replaying the fear
that winds and unwinds? Ah, but look! Look as upward they gaze:
those blessèd, dancing round and around in that circle of praise.
Featured Image: Pieter Breughel the Younger [Public domain], Peasant Wedding Dance
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.