The Old Masters
After Musée Des Beaux Arts W H Auden
About suffering, according to Auden,
the Old Masters were never wrong.
They knew its human position.
In a resort-town Intensive Care,
blood cells and pathogens skirmish
through a grandfather’s pumped lungs.
Nurses and doctors in flimsy armour
line his bed, wait for the count,
lift him, turn him, chest down.
Across fields on the edge of town,
ploughmen are tilling the rich soil,
as fine as a girl’s braided hair.
Dogs running free are still
doing their doggy business,
sheep are fat with unborn lambs.
The tides still follow the moon
and sunlight washes the waves,
whether or not the tourists come.
In the distance, giant turbines
circle slowly, murmur on the breeze,
heard only by a solitary hawk.