They decide to exchange heads.
Barbie squeezes the small opening under her chin
over Ken’s bulging neck socket. His wide jaw line jostles
atop his girlfriend’s body, loosely,
like one of those novelty dogs
destined to gaze from the back windows of cars.
The two dolls chase each other around the orange Country Camper
unsure what they’ll do when they’re within touching distance.
Ken wants to feel Barbie’s toes between his lips,
take off one of her legs and force his whole arm inside her.
With only the vaguest suggestion of genitals,
all the alluring qualities they possess as fashion dolls,
up until now, have done neither of them much good.
But suddenly Barbie is excited looking at her own body
under the weight of Ken’s face. He is part circus freak,
part thwarted hermaphrodite. And she is imagining
she is somebody else– maybe somebody middle class and ordinary,
maybe another teenage model being caught in a scandal.

The night had begun with Barbie getting angry
at finding Ken’s blow up doll, folded and stuffed
under the couch. He was defensive and ashamed, especially about
not having the breath to inflate her. But after a round
of pretend-tears, Barbie and Ken vowed to try
to make their relationship work. With their good memories
as sustaining as good food, they listened to late-night radio
talk shows, one featuring Doctor Ruth. When all else fails,
just hold each other,
the small sex therapist crooned.
Barbie and Ken, on cue, groped in the dark,
their interchangeable skin glowing, the color of Band-Aids.
Then, they let themselves go– Soon Barbie was begging Ken
to try on her spandex miniskirt. She showed him how
to pivot as though he was on a runway. Ken begged
to tie Barbie onto his yellow surfboard and spin her
on the kitcen table until she grew dizzy. Anything,
anything,
they both said to the other’s requests,
their mirrored desires bubbling from the most unlikely places.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Denise Duhamel's poem Kinky

14 Comments

  1. Maggie says:

    i really actually quite enjoyed this poem, it’s imaginitive and quite funny and very very creative it’s not the best peom by her but it’s a really good one. Im a poet myself and i would recomend this poem for anyone who wants a good laugh!

    1 1/2 thumbs up!

  2. d. whitman says:

    Wow how could so many totally irrelevant, inarticulate, and down right stupid responses could come from such a great piece of poetry thats author has won millions of prizes, been sucessfully published, national known and just a great writer. Wow i’m shocked by how people don’t know about the freedom, symbolism and deeper meanings in poetry. what, are you guys in kindergarden or something? it’s just poetry not whatever the hell your thinking of!

  3. VICTORIA says:

    THIS POEM IS REALLY FREAKY.!AAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Nicole says:

    Simply Awesome!!!

  5. Ross J. Peterson says:

    Duhamel’s text is a POEM. The line division, the syntax, choice of just the right word . . all of it makes it a poem.
    Where I see some of the commenters stuck (other than taste for the subject or taboos) is how the narrative procedes through action and not contemplation.
    The line is thin, if it exists at all, between evocative prose and poetry. But this poem is open to poetic exegesis. Where I start my own critique is on the question of economy of the action depicted and nouns (objects / props) introduced. Does Ken need a blow-up doll in this poem?
    On this point: that’s entertainment folks! Another author would probably choose to gross some readers out a great deal more. Such a poem becomes facile when the scenes are built around objects thrown in as easy clichés — but go figure, Ken and Barbie are easy clichés from the git-go.
    I enjoyed the poem and will go back a learn from how just the right words work to advance the action and keep the ideas from jamming up the poet’s intent.
    Keep writing, D.D., please.

  6. Not a poet says:

    That imagery was f’n AWESOME! To me, that was a brilliant capture of the irresponsible and destructive nature of love.

  7. Cameron says:

    that was not poetry. poetry has rules.

  8. cheryl says:

    gross.

  9. Shocked says:

    How can something so simple and creative, have turned into something horrible in people’s minds. While slightly twisted, the representations of Barbie and Ken took insight. Anyone with an understanding of true creativity would see thhis poem for what it is, awesome.

  10. Jarred says:

    you guys are all screwed up. True the poem’s rather strange, but don’t look nito it. Just read it and laugh at it and nothing more.

  11. N/A says:

    this is a crazy poem and im guessing the author was high wen she did it…very violent

  12. becca says:

    the poem was sort of messed up. did the author have a sick child hood? only one can imagine

  13. candy says:

    you should change the title to thats not kinky that’s down right SKANKYYYYYYYY
    candy

  14. Jami says:

    I am a poet and that was a disgrace to poetry. That was not poetry, it was the fantasy of an abused child. Do everyone a favor and stop writitng.

Leave a Reply to Nicole Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Denise Duhamel better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.