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July 2010

Jan Beatty's poem "Sitting Nude" (from her book Red Sugarss) was the model poem for this prompt. She defines "red sugar" as "the sweet, deep inside of the body."

Do some online searches and you'll find descriptions of her poetry as "sexually explicit, gutsy, revealing." Unfortunately, labels like that can be limiting for a writer.

When I was reading the collection, I was reacting to poems like one where a six year old girl encounters a naked man in the woods and runs away ("It's the body inside me that's running, my red sugar body that shows me the brutal road to love."), and to the poems where it's the inside of the body, not the fleshy outside, that carries the poem.

You can find the more explicit poems too, including a funny take on meeting Eros at a downtown peep show.

When I read her poems about wanting "to be the red sugar of the pomegranate," I'm surprised to find an article about a bookseller declaring that her poems are too "erotic" for a reading.

There's more of her poetry on our blog post and online and reading a few will likely have you agreeing more than disagreeing with my take on the poems.

For our July prompt, we ask that you write a poem on nudity. It's a topic that easily goes in many directions - the sensual, the innocent, the erotic...

For more on Jan Beatty and her poetry and other things poetic, visit the Poets Online blog.


All of the art students’ hairdos hold to-
gether: a newspaper hat, a pencil barrette,
a paintbrush, the weather, gravity, glue.
Art students hold that the nude is not—
gravity is—what moves us and holds us
glued to her breasts. Her skin is the weather.
That triangle of hair is a newspaper hat
penciled in and folded over, holding together.
Under the moon and a newspaper hat
I make love to a blue-haired student of art
with pencil-breasts, a single paintbrush
miraculously holding all that weather of hair.

Paul Hostovsky


Sopping swimsuits
cold facts puddle
round shifting feet
maiden and matriarch
change out of their stretch
grasp quickly in some great
act of knowing what is
and what is to become
her eyes ask and are confirmed
that natal trilogy
of stretch mark sag
life's dues paid in full
together they will disarm
unruly ghosts of beauty past
wrapped in bath sheet
one will suffer
vain usurped by vein
the other will not dwell
on pickled skin or dry knees
neither shall expound on crooked toes
or double chins and scars
little maid has snapped the picture
It will carry her
one day it will haunt her
when she is brittle bony
skin blander than porridge
heels peeled and cracked
it will come back then
spirit reflection
hanging as if framed
bestowing again
that silent reciprocity
full in the mirror
stripped to the bone
look of love

Del McNulty


your skin
on mine
your lips
on my breast
both of us
from the shower
before me
only sand and sea
and the night's stars
behind us is
the present
which we can ignore
for the moment

Lianna Wright


lily walks through the
flower garden naked as
a jay bird
porcelain skin as
fragile as a sigh

the sweet pungent
scent of gardenias
fill the air as she picks
a fresh bouquet
for the breakfast table

the skeletons on
bone hill road have
come to terms with
her morning wanderings
ripe with innocence

papa's eyes are full as
she returns for yet
another silent meal
covers her with his
nightshirt and a promise

marie a. mennuto-rovello

6:50 (A.M.)

everything comes off.

but wait - let's paint this - because
the scene is not mines or hers bed;
no no no beds don't have anything
to do with it, and besides
it's far too early and we're on
the dock slipped into our lake,
cold this morning.

but yes like i said the clothes are all off,
and she bends over to fold hers into squares
while i wait freezing and rubbing
my bumpy pink arms, grinning
into the water until she finally
breathes the question -
"ready?" -
to which i nod like a peach
on the wet edge.

there are no descending numbers,
only a laughing glance and we
hands-tied come down into the deeps -
the friends - that love our most
intimate places in a way that
we have always needed and
will always continue to need.
in a way that we could never
offer to each other.

Zack Divozzo


I slept under the gaze of a skull.
It was an exercise, a weekend drill
in Emergency Response.

Pupils gone, the classroom floor
as hard as learning
to see through mortal eyes from the inside-
out of body. This was Science Lab.
Spirit caged, I thought, in ribs; that ticklish,
vulnerable 5th rib.

I stripped off boots and uniform,
protective cover, crawled inside myself,
my mummy-bag, to fall asleep
under layers of integument and muscle,
tendon, intricate organs – secretive
four-chambered heart of the affections.

Where does Life live? Under a synthetic
mannequin I memorized my breath
as if for a test; counted pulse-
beats = terms of an equation. Lungs,
a bellows. Synapse, spark.
When the forge flares, a mummy

bag is much too hot. I threw it off
and let myself slip naked
into the empty eyes of sleep.

Taylor Graham


naked ladies
lined the sides of the road
on mill creek.

tall straight stems

a pink
that made me want to bend over
and pick them,
bring them in
fill tall vases
wait for them to open.

tall, curvaceous, rosy.

Patty Joslyn


You are a field of juniper trees, and your fruit serves as spice.
Bear the meat of your branches to sustain my flesh.

There is an idea that prostrate, your skin reflects a madness.
I am a fen, obstructing the progress of civility.

You have your saving graces, sharp hairs and stirring whispers.
The windows and doors that break up your walls have purged you.

Caressing your recesses is like tiptoeing amidst 88 keys.
I touch to you in scales and you moan in minor chords.

Diametrically I fear the morning may bring slight frost.
You are still; persistent with the coyly threatening.

And though one of us may be artificial, I was living for the moment.
But sometimes I get so involved in pursuit of fantastic nothing.

When I enter, it’s as a fog would, a cloud come crashing down.
And after, I fail to avoid the damage in your wake.

Nicholas Pugliese


Inside my nightdress,
inside your nightshirt,
our warm flesh reposes.
I’m reading,
you’ve just showered,
still glowing,
you reach for the cat
sandwiched between us.

I’m thinking,
shall I reach for you,
fire your hair trigger ?
The remote defeats you,
you’ve lost the sound
and the channel,
your book has fallen,
your glasses too.

I’m reading, finally,
you settle,
It would be mean
to rouse you again.
Two nudes together,
bleeding comfort.
I’m nearly asleep,
the cat melts further in,

Good night, Bum

Good night, Other Bum.

Vivien Jones


We all know of the modesty of Venus
Her hands before her breasts
Standing slightly off balance, leaning forward.

There were high school showers
When your doctor was supposed to write
The excuse note
Still one entered those white tile rooms,
With ones hands as Venus across ones privates.

The gym teacher was Mr Thrush
A thrusting Okie, who found work in New York
A drill sergeant Football coach
Who was big on words like pussies and wussy,
" Why are you afraid of being men?".

While Columbia, tackled the problem
With a hale and hearty and heartless way
With everybody naked
Jumping into the cold water
To do two laps, two long laps
To show what one could do
To pass out of swimming

From the deck of the tourist steamer
On a cruise up the Yangtze
One passed anonymous cities of a hundred thousand
Where young men swam naked
In the brown silt of the river.

It was not for cleaning but to be cool
In the gaseous air of a Chinese summer,
One could imagine their calculation,
No strength to go down stream
But all is to save the strength to return.

That Victorian word fetching;
It describes Caravaggio's epicene men
Who in ambiguous language play instruments
An organ or what goes between the legs,
While woman are on exhibition.

We are not the Cabbage patch kids
We are the Cabbage men
With the Cardiac Arterial Bypass Grafts
Marked by out sternal splits
The vertical decolletage of this age
To be smoothed away by white lead

So men with nudity
Have few worries about the interior
With Love residing on the outside.

Edward N Halperin