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About this Poem 

"At a Brooklyn Museum show, ‘Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior,’ I was riveted by a powerful watercolor portrait of Hanuman, the monkey god, tearing open his chest to reveal Rama and Sita in his heart. The stylized image and opaque blues and blacks drew me, and I was moved, thinking of the anonymous artists who once made and sold paintings of gods in the Calcutta bazaar. This visual encounter led to drafts that began as description but ultimately turned inward–the poem showed me that my response to the painting was inseparable from a long habit of self-questioning and self-censure.”
--Joan Larkin

Blue Hanuman

Joan Larkin

A four-armed flutist took me
to the blue avatar: stone-blue
monkey, whiskers silver,
broken beads silver–
paint dashed by the artist on cheap paper.
Bought for a few annas, God
kneels, looks left. Intense concentration.
His ink hands rip open his chest,
pull skin aside like a velvet curtain–
Rama and Sita alive
at his core. And what devotion shall
my flesh show, and my broken-open breast.
His blueblack tail flicks upward, its dark
tip a paintbrush loaded blue.

Copyright © 2013 by Joan Larkin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on May 14, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Joan Larkin

Joan Larkin

Born in Massachusetts in 1939, Joan Larkin is the 2011 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship

by this poet

Hooves were forbidden, but she fed us			               

stringy liver, thick tongue, gray kishkes 						

crammed with something soft. She had a bulb	         

of garlic, a handful of salt, some wretched carrots.       

Drew out blood with salt, clamped her grinder 

and fed chunks into it and forced them


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I’m older than my father when he turned
bright gold and left his body with its used-up liver
in the Faulkner Hospital, Jamaica Plain.  I don’t 
believe in the afterlife, don’t know where he is 
now his flesh has finished rotting from his long 
bones in the Jewish Cemetery—he could be the only 
convert under