The Other Side of the Barred Window

by Sunil Sharma

May 1889. Saint-Paul Asylum
Through the east-facing iron-barred
Window of the second-floor bedroom,
The familiar sky grew into a revelation
That electrified a young inmate fighting
His own private demons;
The ether got suffused with luminosity
And the stars and the moon orbited
In swirls very bright;
The other side of a mundane sky!
The vision uplifted the gloomy mood
Of a self-mutilated and starved artist, and,
The scene was painted and preserved as the iconic Starry Night.
That canvas still alive, despite the intervening time
And is part of a marvellous series and it
Forms a luminous summit of
World culture, easily recognized;
The sky was always there for those living
In the Saint-Remy-de-Provence and
Still there stretched out for other mortals in the world,
Yet its mystery, its spiritual dimension could only be
Captured by someone considered nuts
By the rest of the proper and the civilized,
What arbitrary cultural and social categories
To imprison and destroy tender creative minds!
Vincent van Gogh could see vividly the other side of the
Brilliant star-studded sky, and, the
Essence of the grim reality of his time and
Could easily locate its soul pristine in meadows
Sunflowers and the sky.
Asylum walls could not restrain his soaring spirit
And he drew furiously through his inner eye.

Madness was never so lucid
So receptive to the beauty innate
In things ugly/ordinary!

Like the famous Don Quixote and the cat in the Wonderland,
Dear Vincent—and rest of us through the Dutch artist—can
See things only the crazy can see
Yes, the other side,
That the sane and practical always dislike!

 

Editor’s Note on The Other Side of the Barred Window:

The Other Side of the Barred Window is not Sunil Sharma’s first work to appear in Eastlit. His previous published pieces are:

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