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.
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.”