The Starry Night

The Starry Night
by Van Gogh, 1889, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Van Gogh’s painting conveys both a sense of furious motion and an atmosphere of serenity: stars radiate in a turbulent sky, yet the town below, appears calm and empty. The poem is not so much a howl of pain, but rather an urgent expression of an all-consuming desire – the irrepressible desire to be overpowered by a force greater than oneself.

The Starry Night, Ann Sexton (1961)

The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.
Oh starry night! This is how
I want to die.
It moves. They are all alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.
Oh starry night! This is how
I want to die:
into that rushing beast of the night,
sucked up by that great dragon, to split
from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry.

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