Saturday, April 10, 2010

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.

X.J. Kennedy (b.1929) won the 1961 Lamont Award for his first book of poetry, Nude Descending a Staircase. The title poem was roughly inspired by the Marcel Duchamp painting but does not attempt to describe the work. A picture of the painting can be found here.


  1. Interesting... the image that forms in my mind is so unlike the painting. My image is smooth, soft and graceful. The painting is rough, geometric and precise. Wonder if XJ was trying to soften the painting a bit.

  2. Yes, the imagery leads you to believe the painting is going to be voluptuous. I wonder if Kennedy ultimately responded more to the title than to the painting. Certainly part of Duchamp's joke was that the title alluded to classic figure studies and his painting was anything but.