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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, December 23, 2016.
About this Poem 

“My father dressed in conformity with his conservative views. The neckties I loved to gaze at were a kind of hidden wealth, like the dazzling color plates in The Arabian Nights, a book he’d given me. He was generous and repressive, sensuous and puritanical, encouraging and frightening. Time has deepened my sense of his complexity—whatever I think I know of others, much remains a mystery.”
—Joan Larkin

My Father’s Tie Rack

Back of the door to his dark closet,
eye height, with clever steel
pegs I could flip both ways.
A row of pendulums. Of tongues.
Words, wordless. Witnesses
waiting to be sworn. The town secret.
A silk body, a man's plenty.
A wild ache, a knot. One painted
with gold mums, one with blood
leaves on mud. Vishnu's skin, twenty
shades of sky. White flag iris.
Slick sheen of a greenblack snake.
Which one went with him into the hole?
Somewhere else: his belts.

Copyright © 2016 by Joan Larkin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 23, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Joan Larkin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 23, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Joan Larkin

Joan Larkin

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

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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