The outer and the inner sky

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 02 Oct 2018 10:19:03


By Vijay Phanshikar,

A low yellow
moon above the
quiet lamp-lit house
- A haiku by
Jack Kerouac






WHAT a metaphor -- with multiple meanings! But the most profound is the one etched in the visual memory of man since time immemorial -- of a mid-evening sight so often witnessed, with a yellow moon hanging low not on the horizon but almost as if on the tiled roof of your own house. Outside, the yellow moon emits a golden glow to dissipate the otherwise sickening darkness, and inside the house, the yellow light from house-hold lamp makes the darkness more pronounced. There is certain similarity in sights inside and outside the house, thus. And yet, never mind the possible dullness of the scene -- due to absence of sharp contrast -- there is also a certain cheer in the air.

Low yellow moon ...!
It is a universal memory that has endured time and that has often endeared itself to most of us. For, low yellow moon almost looks like a kid’s playing ball hanging from the
ceiling, as if the kid can just jump up and grab it, pull it down, and play with it, never mind the mother’s annoyance, never mind the father’s irritation. For, when the ball is in the kid’s hands, the world belongs to him -- and to no one else. Hell with all annoyances, all irritations!

But the low yellow moon has some other metaphors as well. Doesn’t the young wife feels a curious pull for her faraway husband who had promised to return by evening! Doesn’t the young bride realise how lonesome life can be when the dearest one is not around. And in that state of utter lonesomeness, doesn’t she feel a sense of certain wordless fear in her heart -- about her darling’s safety, her own security, and also a real concern for the whole world. For, in that smudged state of yellowed world, every thing is so definitionless, so much doused in certain mysterious drag whose direction one cannot tell!

One such late evening, when the low yellow moon hung low over the roof and peeped through the window, one young and blind girl listened eagerly to her brother’s description of how moonlight flooding in through the window had etched on the floor a beautiful pattern. She grieved that she could not ‘see’ the moonlight. It was at that precise moment, music maestro Beethoven was passing by in that lonely lane. He heard this conversation, and knocked at the door. Once inside, as he knew that the girl was blind, he wielded his violin and composed his famous sonata ‘Moonlight’ extempore. As the girl heard the divine music, she exclaimed, “Oh, I can see moonlight now”.

I can never tire of telling this story a trillion times. For, it talks of yet another response to the phenomenon of moonlight -- from a low yellow moon or a high silver moon. But when the yellow moon hangs low almost touching the roof, then there also are kids who want to be out in the yard, playing hide and seek by the moonlight that saws itself through darkened branches of the tall trees around the house, forming patterns that at times make one feel a sense of glee and at other moments a sense of gloom.

Of course, the little almost-yellow lamp in the house, too, has its own metaphor. Simply, it is the moon in the inner sky of the architecture of the house. It also hangs low -- touching one’s inner sky, that little, undefinable zone in which one’s thoughts swirl up and down.

The haiku’s words are simple, but exude a certain complexity of perceptions -- all at once. And this completeness of the picture has two glowing points, the low yellow moon in the sky and the lamp inside the house.