Sassy, Fresh, Funny, and Satisfying

As a painter Marcel Duchamp was a reasonably good theorist.  I've always been a bit disappointed in looking at the much vaunted works--Fountain, The Bride Laid Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, and most particularly Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2.  The reason for my disappointment in the latter was my sheer delight in what immediately follows.  In this case the "book" is better than the "movie" even though the book followed by nearly half a century.

Nude Descending a Staircase
X. J. Kennedy

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
A gold of lemon, root and rind,
She sifts in sunlight down the stairs
With nothing on. Nor on her mind.

We spy beneath the banister
A constant thresh of thigh on thigh--
Her lips imprint the swinging air
That parts to let her parts go by.

One-woman waterfall, she wears
Her slow descent like a long cape
And pausing, on the final stair
Collects her motions into shape.

Every line is perfectly balanced and each contains some element of fun, a trope or a turn that just sets everything on end--"a snowing flesh," "She sifts in sunlight," 'with nothing on. Nor on her mind."   My favorite stanza--the one committed to memory lo these many years, is the third, with its magnificent alliterative beginning and the summing up that draws the images of the previous two stanzas together into a painting that the reader makes for him- or herself.  And that painting was always differed from  Duchamp's execution of it.  Although perhaps the spirits of playfulness are not all that different.


  1. Truly lovely, Steven. Thanks for posting this; I'd never seen it before.


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