“Motion Observed: Eadweard Muybridge” by Dean Kostos


Balancing a basket of emptiness, a woman
emerges from shadow,

multiplies. Nudes sacrifice
themselves to time.

Carrying an alabaster bowl
filled with water & laurel,

a man becomes many men. A woman
appears in rows of stop-motion

photographs, cradles stalks of lilac,
chants anapests.

Each movement
is a photographic freeze frame,

a sliver of silver intelligence.
Bodies adhere to the act of action,

observed. Looking changes what is seen.
A fractured narrative speaks:

flesh & fullness. A man heaves
a medicine ball. A woman empties

a bucket of flickering light.


Stooping, another woman throws
a wrap of diaphanous cloth

around her shoulders. It whorls
into wings & faces—cherubim.

The woman dances, cloth arcing
into pinions.

As she spins,
the fabric flickers from white

to the iridescence on a pigeon’s neck.
Light eludes

sight, fills fibers with kinesis.
With each stop-frame, her movements

shimmer into Linear A, remains

In her final stance, she petrifies
into the Venus de Milo.

Her arms grow back.


Twelve stop-motion photographs.
The body determined

as an opera. An aria
spirals from a shellac disc. What is sung

is seen. “Descent” &
“ascent” reverse

as in Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase:
an accordion of steps collapses

in on itself.  I enter the painting: breathe
burnt-umber air. Leaving, I hear

bodies speak the language of arrival.
Flesh becomes intellect.

Study of movement. Joints
bend into grammar.

What language does the body speak?

A model climbs a ladder, returns
with a rock in his hands,

carries the heft like a libation bearer.

Wires tripped by feet
discharge a phalanx of cameras. Studied,

locomotion magics the mind.


Dean Kostos’ eight collection, Pierced by Night-Colored Threads, was released in September 2017. His previous collection, This Is Not a Skyscraper, won the Benhamin Saltman Poetry Award, selected by Mark Doty. His other collections include Rivering, Last Supper of the Senses, The Sentence That Ends with a Comma (which was required reading at Duke University) and Celestial Rust.  His memoir, The Boy Who Listened to Paintings, will be released in September.