a poem by John Updike
Yes, the body is a hideous thing,
the feet and genitals especially,
the human face not far behind. Blue veins
make snakes on the backs of hands, and mar
the marbled glassy massiveness of thighs.
Such clotted weight’s worth seeing after centuries
(Pygmalion to Canova) of the nude
as spirit’s outer form, a white flame: Psyche.
How wonderfully St. Gaudens’ slim Diana
stands balanced on one foot, in air, moon-cool,
forever! But no, flesh drags us down,
its mottled earth the painter’s avid ground,
earth innocently ugly, sound asleep,
poor nakedness, sunk angel, sack of phlegm.