“Big Naked Man” by Alison Luterman

Alison Luterman


Slumps, glowering,
ten feet tall
in a corner of the white museum.
The little live boy is amazed
at the man’s gigantic penis,
slack, pink, hairy.
He giggles with his hand over his mouth,
pointing at the sad sack balls
ten times their normal size,
hanging like discouraged tomatoes
in the wrinkled pink scrotum.
Here, little boy, is what you get if you’re lucky,
if you live to get old:
pendulous belly, thighs like spoiled milk,
veins, splotches, wrinkles, enlarged pores.
The big naked man
has spent all his non-life in various galleries,
amazing and disgusting onlookers.
Is he really polyester?
How long did it take to make him?
They never ask, Who loved him?
Although clearly someone did:
enough to render
in perfect precision every detail of his downfall,
and then leave him
naked, and vulnerable,
just like the rest of us in the end.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Tribute to Buddhist Poets


Alison Luterman: “I couldn’t take my eyes off the sculpture of the Big Naked Man—if that’s what he was called, I don’t remember—who dominated a whole corner of a museum room at the Smithsonian. I saw many other beautiful paintings and sculptures that day, but the sight of this man in all his naked, defeated sagging humanity, touched me deeply, made me shiver with revulsion, recognition and tenderness for the processes of decay that are even now taking place in my own body. I wish I remembered the name of the artist, or the title of the work. But in the end it’s just the physical fact of the piece itself—the man in all his helplessness—that remains in my memory. Which is perhaps as it should be.” (web)

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