Nude Descending a Staircase

By X J Kennedy b. 1929
Toe after 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.

© 1985 by X. J. Kennedy. Used by permission of the author.

Source: Poetry (January 1960).


This poem originally appeared in the January 1960 issue of Poetry magazine

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January 1960
 X J Kennedy


Joseph Kennedy, better known to his readers by the pseudonym X. J. Kennedy, is a self-confessed "schizophrenic" as regards his writings. Kennedy noted to Contemporary Authors that "I write for three separate audiences: children, college students (who use textbooks), and that small band of people who still read poetry." But there is unity in all of Kennedy's writings—underlying it is a love of poetry and meter, a playfulness . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Painting & Sculpture, Nature, Arts & Sciences, The Body

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Ekphrasis

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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