Nude Descending Poem by Alicia Suskin Ostriker

Alicia Suskin Ostriker

Brooklyn, New York City, New York

Nude Descending



Like a bowerbird trailing a beakful of weeds
Like prize ribbons for the very best

The lover, producer
Of another's pleasure

He whom her swollen lips await
Might wing through any day of the decade

A form of health insurance
For which it is never too late

Titanic, silver brush
Hindenburg, of exploding cigars a climax

The watery below, the fiery above
Ashes of print between—pigment between


If the crippled woman were to descend
From her bed, her fortress beyond midnight

Downstairs (nude/staircase) to the kitchen
Naked to sit at the table (writing/thinking)

She might hear the washer spin like a full orchestra
Complete a cycle like a train crash

Before the fiend would stare through the window
Step smoothly into the kitchen, stop some clocks.

Envy shapes a fig tree in one's breast,
That is, bluntly to say, a cancer,

That is to say
In a mind, a fertile windy field. A murdered child.

Well then, fear, primarily of falling.
Ebony surf toils on the beach, a glaze

At the same moment I am (from a cliff) falling
The kitchen fiend removes his Dior tie

Places his hand over the woman's
And softly says: I am the lover.


Now if the crippled woman began to dance
To pirouette, to rumba

Growling for her child
Her burning page, the devil would be shamed

(Materialism is not for everyone / Religion is
The extension of politics by other means)

Would disembody like a wicked smoke
Back to the status of myth

Away he'd streak, blue, into the—
O faun, we would finally call, farewell

O faun, we would faintly faintly call
O faun, we would, we would fondly—

She does not dance. She does not wish
To produce another's pleasure.

They have torn her apart
Into beige rectangles.

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Alicia Suskin Ostriker

Brooklyn, New York City, New York
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