PF detail from Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Beach Scene, Guernsey (Children by the Sea in Guernsey) - 1883;


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Jane Hirshfield is the author of six books of poems, most recently After (HarperCollins, 2006; Bloodaxe Books (UK), 2006), which was named a “best book of 2006” by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and England’s Financial Times; it was also a Poetry Book Society Choice and T.S. Eliot Prize shortlist finalist in its UK edition. Given Sugar, Given Salt (HarperCollins, 2001) was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award. Other poetry collections include Alaya (Quarterly Review of Literature Series, 1982), Of Gravity & Angels (Wesleyan University Press, 1988), The October Palace (HarperCollins, 1994), and The Lives of the Heart (HarperCollins, 1997). Hirshfield is also the author of a now-classic book of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (HarperCollins, 1997), and editor and co-translator of three collections of poetry by women writers of the past, Women in Praise of the Sacred: Forty-three Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women (HarperCollins, 1994), The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Komachi and Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Japanese Court (Vintage Classics, 1990), and Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems (Beacon Press, 2004, with Robert Bly).



There is a painting of it: an eighteenth-century miniature from the
Kangra School of India, of the lovers Krishna and Radha. In other
paintings, they have sheltered together, stood under the canopy of
invisibility among cows and the village girls who tend them. His hand
has covered her breast. In other paintings, we have watched her prepare
for him, behind the screen of a bedcloth held up by her friends. She is
putting red dye on her nipples and the bottoms of her feet, while he
looks down from an upstairs window, smiling. His body is blue, his
flute’s notes possess a god’s effortless irresistibility. But here it is
different. Though her eyes and mouth turn toward him with a undeniable
longing, she stops him with one raised hand. Inscribed on the page are
his words, “Hear me, hear what I ask,” and hers—they are simple,
immediate—“I hear, my Lord.” But still she is leaving, walking away.
Though her torso turns back, her feet are already rising a little out of
her slippers—the god, though not the viewer, can see the red dye as she
goes. Under the silk of a sari so fine it could pass through the hoop of
her earring, her nipples are standing.

From: Lives of the Heart published by Harper Collins, 1997.

Kangra Minature, India “Radha Krishna”