Selected Poems from

THE BODY by Michael Benedikt

(Wesleyan University Press, l968)

Poems appear in l998/9 & Y2K updates

This Page Last Modified 8/00--with new poems, etc. Also 9/00 in prep. for further Modifications in 2000


Poem Welcoming You To This Web-Page

THOUGHTS

Excuse me, isn't that you I see concealed underneath there
Inside the protective shield, or conning-tower, of your head,
Your eyes looking out of perforations in your flesh?
How can you think you can see from out of liquid, anyway? Are
rain-puddles watching me even now,
And can ducts which punctuate the underground of a field
Examine it at will for buried treasure? Is the rain outside your
window, a voyeur, then? Deep down under all those substances, though--
Beneath those liquids & even the various unobservant stuffs, too--
There is a spirit, shifting around from foot to foot.

[Above poem, from Part IV of THE BODY]


Note: THE BODY is a four-part book.  Most of the poems at this webpage so far are from Parts I & II.


POEMS AT THIS PAGE

AIR
THE AMBITIOUS LUMP
THE CITIES
MOTIONS   (after Man Ray, Surrealist Photographer)
MR. RAINMAN
THE HELPER
THE EUROPEAN SHOE
THE EYE
SOME LITANIES

AN ENORMOUS DANGLING SACK-LIKE NET   (after Rene Magritte, Surrealist Painter)
TIME   New (with Illustration by June Hildebrand)
New IN LOVE WITH YOU
New PINK BUDS


  Click for Original l968 Table of Contents, Parts I & II of The Body
Click for Brief Benedikt Biography

Links have Return-Links to here


AIR

Air, air, you are the most elusive, yet omnipresent thing I know.
Not even the whales in their patterns upon and under
The sea, are more inscrutable, or beautiful, to me;
You carry sails of travelers to interesting places
And adventurers, sailors, or just plain traders;
You encourage the bicyclist to mount his apparatus
And you are ever-present during swimmming-lessons
So that when the excessively-dedicated swimmer may emerge
From the water an instant, he'll freeze;
And air, you are hanging around the fetid places
Always, ready to clear the dank atmosphere
With a breath of yourself; I have found you in
The slums of the intellect, even, about to puff
When the mind is hopelessly weak after too much travel,
And in the lines of poems that rescue one when one's feeling somewhat stifled
Poised like a bouquet there, sprightly and colorful.


THE AMBITIOUS LUMP

When papa hit Geoffrey with the frying pan
It was his initial adult experience
And it kept on increasing & expanding
Until he was a sophisticated boy

A little stultified perhaps by his ambition
And proneness to slaughter
But we all excused him because of his penmanship
And so passed the first years of his apprenticeship.

By the time Geoffrey took over as CEO
      of 'The Humongous Computer Corporation'
He was at last a total cripple.
The lump had risen up day after day and also annually
And on Geoffrey's 21st birthday had taken its penultimate revenge...

Hardly recognizing the exigencies of life as most men tended to live it
Geoffrey continued to hit peak after peak, specializing
      finally in hard-to-manage &/or malfunctioning software;
Although severely damaged himself, he had at last risen so exceptionally high in the world
That only The Lump could elevate him any further.

When I visited Buenos Aires recently
I noticed Geoffrey on top of Sugar Leaf Mountain.
He was standing there ten thousand feet above the sea level
Hitting himself over the head.

----------------------

Notes: The above poem is revised in this edition. Also, a few words have been changed in
'Air' & 'Mr. Rainman.' BTW, the word 'Leaf,' above, is not a typo.


THE CITIES

Tired of poultry, the experimental chemist
Slouched under the laboratory light.
His assistant, Phyllis, for whom he had
An eye, had crept out at exactly five
Leaving the mad old man there
Beneath all the flourescent tubes.

Soon, through the window, the lunar
Rays shone. The landscape brilliantly
Lit up, by the reflections from frost.
But the old man lay among the poultry
Droppings, a victim, as local police termed it,
Of  "Desperate, Unrequited Love."

Phyllis' life was changed by the event.
No sooner had she attended Georg's
Funeral, than she abandoned her staid old ways.
Parties all night, festivals at which
Her nudity glittered with the aspics,
Poetry readings in little cellar bars!

--Her life was changed. She bought a dog.
In the park, for free, they
Fondled her near The Fountain. Enough
Had soon happened to fill a lifetime.
Then, tired of the Arts & Sciences of Men,
Phylis crept home to gentle Peoria.

In Peoria, Phyllis was somehow unsatisfied.
Her restless ways became apparent
To her parents, and one day, as she
Was returning from the corner soda parlor
With the local plumber, her parents
Drew her aside. "Our dear Phyll," they

Said, "you are insufficiently happy here.
You are not the little girl we knew
Who went wincing up to the attic
Tenderly, when struck, and would not
Come down for a week; you seem more hip
Now, and very unlikely to stay

More than an unhappy few months more here.
Why don't you get out and leave now?"
Phyllis filled her bags with their money
And went down the highway, a victim
Of inherited kindliness, troubled
By remembrances of recent events....


MOTIONS

after Man Ray, Surrealist Photographer

Carrying in the black bundle
                                                    the evening paused on the roadway
To tug at the ribbons around it
                                                       to peek beneath the wrapping-paper
While mumbling to itself
Then carried it another fifty feet
And stopped by the roadside
                                                 sat down
And turned it upsidedown shook the package listened to it rattle
Then trotted away
                               into the privacy of a little group of roadside trees...
It returned smiling
                                  but carrying nothing
O lovely unpredictable
                                        hour


MR. RAINMAN

In the rain, an angry outcry: 'Get your hands off my trickling face'!
A damp rug
                    my chilled hands
Show that we have a rather sinister visitor:
                                                                            A smudge
                                                                            in a soggy grey coat
And shoes that hiss on the diningroom table

We thought he simply needed a shave but that shadow on Mr. Rainman's cheek            
       actually meant that he was almost completely covered with mosses
       and various other greens growing there...

O my pink-cheeked, innocent young daughter
O my daughter in your ancient but hardly yellowed white pinafore
       what are you doing peeking at him and gazing down at midnight through the skylight
                                                                             and then sliding down towards him
                                                                                            straight down the bannister

You stand out enough!


THE HELPER

To be helpful
To lift up someone's eyelid at midnight
To observe their lack of vigor
To grasp them by one arm and drag them out of the room and downstairs
And dress them in an old oilskin against black insects in the hall
Then to drag them down the front flight of stairs
And put them in the trunk of the car, afterwards locking it carefully for safety
Then to drive them out to the country
Down all those dark, deserted roads, with only the black night butterflies alert
And there, in the country, to find a quiet, relaxing place
Perhaps on a knoll or in a field or under a bridge with the water tricklings
      writing maledictions over everything
And to bury them there
In the oilskin
With the insects still keeping their distance
And to bury them deeply and undiscoverably

--To be this helpful
Is unappreciated, often.


THE EUROPEAN SHOE

The European Shoe is covered with grass and reed, bound up and wound around
      so that it may slip easily over the wearer's head.

In case you are an aircraft pilot, you must take care that the European Shoe does not
     creep off your foot, and begin to make its way carefully across the fusilage.

The European Shoe pressed against the fugitive's nose, preventing it from imminent
    departure.

The European Shoe spends summers in delightful ways. A lady feels its subtle and
     unexpected pressure the length of her decolletage. (It winters in pain).

That time I lent you my European Shoe you departed with a look of grandeur, and in
     total disrepair.

The European Shoe knocks on the door of the carefree farmerette. "The harvest
     has been gathered in, ha, ha," it says, moving shyly forth along the edge of the couch.

I pointed to the European Shoe. I ate the European Shoe. I married the European Shoe.

Tears fall from the eye of the European Shoe as it waves goodbye to us from the back
     balcony of the speeding train.

It helps an old lady, extremely crippled and arthritic, move an enormous cornerstone.
     It invents a watch which, when wound up tightly, flies completely to pieces.

It was a simple and dignified ceremony, distinguished for its gales of uncontrollable
     laughter, in which I married the European Shoe.

If it rains, the European Shoe becomes very heavy. I failed to cross the river,
     where thousands of European Shoes lay capsized.

And so we lived alone, we two, the envy of our neighborhood,
      the delight of our lively hordes of children.

I saw a flightful of graceful sparrows heading to distant, half-forgotten islands over the
     distant seas; and in the midst of that annually questing company,
     I saw the European Shoe.

It never harmed anyone, and yet it never really helped anyone.

Gaily it sets out into the depths of my profoundest closet, to do battle with the dusts
      of summer....


THE EYE

The narcissist's eye is blue, fringed with white and covered with tempting salad leaves

The purse-stealer's eye is yellow.

The eye of the non-combatant is white. In the center is a target rendered in green
     and black.

The voluptuary's eye comes to a point. It is like a silo, the echo of a halo.

The gravedigger's eye is hollow. It is surrounded by a thoroughly contemporary
     serenity.

The dynamite salesman's eye is like a pool, in which he who leans to drink may be lost.
     Drifting forever, like a cloud.

The maiden's eye is tucked under.

The billiard-player's eye comes to a point. It is like a mild wine. Each billiard-player
     suffers from imperfect nostalgia.

The ghost's eye is green.

The poet's eye is like a candy

The battleship captain's eye is like the light that falls in a glen, when the doe has done
     with drinking.

The eye of the Realist is inflatable!


[from Part II of THE BODY]

SOME LITANIES

(FOUR POEM-PLAYLETS)

1.

Was the arrangement made between the two couples legal?

No.

Did they spread the word around?

No.

Have you visited the two couples lately? Did you have an interesting time? Was it illegal?

No.

What was the decoration like?

It was furnished in Swedish "modern." Woven strings were hanging down in the living-room.
A bird flew in the window and out again.

Will you ever marry?

No.

Have you ever been married?

I don't remember.

Do you love your husband?

Yes.

2.

May I please have this dance?

No.

May I please have that dance?

No.

Aren't you going to wear anything to the dance?

Yes.

Are you a good dancer?

Yes.

Do you know how to dance?

No.

May I in that case have your company during the dance they decide to play at midnight, whatever it is?
I have fallen in love with your eyes, lips, hands and hair.

No.

3.

During the lapse of several years, during which I spent most of my time in Barcelona, was the magazine
I edited published?

Yes.

During the lapse of several years, during which I spent most of my time in Barcelona, was the magazine
I edited published?

No.

Aren't you absolutely sure?

No.

Aren't you absolutely sure?

Yes

Will you ever come to Barcelona with me?

No. I am afraid to leave behind the business affairs of the magazine, of which I am General Manager.

Are you really that conscientious?

No.

4.

Would you care to deal him a death-dealing blow?

No.

Would you care to pay him a little visit?

No.

Would you care to improve the promptness of his laundry service by making persistent enquiries?

No.

Are you really his legal guardian?

No.

Would you care to hand him this large can of fortified beeswax?

No.

Do you have a favorite hobby?

Yes. Devoting myself entirely to that boy!


AN ENORMOUS DANGLING SACK-LIKE NET

After Rene Magritte, Surrealist Painter

A large weight lay inside the enormous dangling sack-like net. When the breeze pressed forth, it swung
in the holder's hand; then, bit by bit, it came to a full stop.

Stooping down, we could see the outlines of the weight: they were those of a small building, a country-house.
It was surrounded by apple-trees in flower. Young men in rough work-clothes, with rough-hewn ways,
had propped up ladders and were climbing in the branches looking for apples.

The gestures they made in their search, so practical & so firm, and yet so inadvertently beautiful,
seemed somehow to admonish the stranger to take heart....


TIME

                                                                 The cleft in my hat
                                                                          is bearing a little soot
                                                                 A seed falls
                                                                 --Suddenly
                                                 A few fanning spears
                                                                 Like grass
                                                                                   are there;
                                                                 And now a red flower...


'Time' illustration by June Hildebrand

Illustration (with flower in hatband) by graphic artist June Hildebrand


IN LOVE WITH YOU

Would you mind telling me exactly what your personal symbol is, a tendril?
If so, my little cottage will soon be vine-covered.
Its faithful old caretaker will go to the tool-shed and find his spade and wheelbarrow
      woven together with a lovely, greenish, spidery tracing
And then his fingers, arms, and legs. There could come as a matter of fact
A sobbing from from all the help there--ah, what training for any lazy maids!
And even though the smoke which whirls as it escapes the chimney
Will take on the shape of an arbor in which we may never sit
What a definite reminder of yourself you will have established, weaving it tightly around my heart,
      and its various outbuildings.
And ah!--How much better than if you had revealed
That you had chosen for your personal symbol something like hogwort,
      or liverwurst...


PINK BUDS

To a Lady Gone Away West For The Summertime

Pink buds pink buds ah look my my how pretty
Two of them are surely blooming there
On the lawn of your vacation estate 'way out  west and far out in the country surely
Two more peek out from beneath the lofty linden-tree
Parked at the side of your driveway yet another set
No doubt flourishes just because you're there
Even in the shadows beneath that roadside covered wagon relic somebody left standing out all century

Pink buds pink buds my my how nice
This emblem I'm in the midst of emblazoning for my love here
Meant to be highly symbolic of "Summertime and Extremely Passionate Yearning of Youth"
Utilizes this common motif
Pink buds I see you do not peek
Out of the flag of my landlord
Pink beds you are also the two reddish stone paperweights which she found on a mesa and gave me as a
      souvenir late last summer
And which I vainly place on the sheaves of my thinking and musing
To try and hold memories of my absent love down

Pink beds pink buds ah yes ah yes I particularly remember two
Night-blooming I recall they flower forth when I touch them
And tiptoe discreetly Indian-style
Across the bosom of You, Oh my ever-so bountiful one
Visiting Oh my generous Persephone
Your radiant place in the country all dark summer long.


FORTHCOMING  LATER  IN  2000:
OTHER  SOMETIMES DARK, SOMETIMES FUNNY POEMS,  MOSTLY  FROM  LATER  SECTIONS  OF  THE  BODY.  ALSO A FEW  FROM  SKY.   AND,  A  NEW  PAGE  OF  DARK  LOVE  POEMS  FROM  BODY  WILL  BE  ONLINE SHORTLY AT  URL:

http://members.tripod.com/~MichaelBenedikt/darklove.html  


Original l968 Table of Contents: THE BODY, Parts I & II (of 4)
[Poems in Blue Font are Online at this 5-Page Website. Forthcoming: Further Color Coding]

I

AIR
THE CITIES
MOTIONS
MR. RAINMAN
THE EYE OF THE ASSASSIN (new at Halloween page)
THE EUROPEAN SHOE
FRAUDULENT DAYS
THE AMBITIOUS LUMP
MUTUAL MORTIFICATIONS
PROCESSION
DIVINE LOVE
THE AIDER (retitled at this webpage as THE HELPER)
THE EYE

II

SOME LITANIES
HIDING-PLACE
TIME
IN LOVE WITH YOU
PINK BUDS
TULIPS
THE GRAND GUIGNOLS OF LOVE (forthcoming at Dark Love website)  
THE GREAT DIVAN (to be retitled at Dark Love website as SEXTETTE: THE GREAT DIVAN)
SOME OLD MEN
AN ENORMOUS DANGLING SACK-LIKE NET
TEARS

Return-Link to Near Top


Brief Benedikt Biography

Michael Benedikt's publications include five collections of poetry: The Badminton at Great Barrington; or, Gustave Mahler & The Chattanooga Choo-Choo (University of Pittsburgh Press, l980), a book about the joys & sorrows of love; and with Wesleyan University Press, Night Cries (prose poems, l976); Mole Notes (prose poems, l971); Sky (l970); and The Body (l968). Anthologies of poetry under his editorship are The Prose Poem: An International Anthology (Dell/Laurel, l976); and The Poetry of Surrealism (Little Brown, l974). He is also the co-editor/co-translator, with theatre critic George E. Wellwarth, of 3 anthologies of European plays: Modern French Theatre: The Avant-Garde, Dada, & Surrealism (E.P. Dutton, l964); Post-War German Theatre (Dutton, l967); & Modern Spanish Theatre (Dutton, l969). He's also the editor of Theatre Experiment: American Plays (Doubleday, l967). Benedikt is a former Associate Editor of Art News  and  Art International. A former Poetry Editor of The Paris Review, his editorial selections are represented in The Paris Review Anthology (Norton, l990). Benedikt's recent, l990's poetry has been published in Agni, Iowa Review, Jerusalem ReviewLips, Michigan Quarterly Review,  The New Republic,  New York Quarterly,  Partisan Review; and most recently in The Paris Review--summer '99 issue (#151). His work appears in numerous anthologies of modern & contemporary US poetry. Benedikt is currently a Contributing Editor for American Poetry Review and The Prose Poem: An International Journal. Grants and awards include an NEA Fellowship, a NY State Council On The Arts Grant, and a Guggenheim Grant. He has taught Literature and Creative Writing as Visiting Professor at Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, Hampshire, and Vassar College/s, and at Boston University; and has given many readings from his poetry at colleges, universities and bookstores around the USA. A reading by Benedikt for The Library of Congress is available on a Library of Congress Videotape. He lives in Manhattan, NYC. E-mail at benedit1@aol.com

Return-Link to Near Top

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  Links To Other Pages Within This BODY-SKY Website

For other poems from other sections of THE BODY--including large typeface versions of "The Helper" and "Mr. Rainman," residing at (of all places) an Award-Winning Benedikt Halloween-Page
Click Here

For a Thematic Index to THE BODY and SKY (a teaching & scholarly resource with index of topics in Benedikt's first 2 poetry books, with commentary on some of the categories--including notes on the relationship of both books to l960's painting, sculpture, film & underground theatre, &--
as if that weren't enough--
New info & graphics, etc.)
  Click Here

Carole Schneemann in an Event by
Benedikt based on his poem 'Tears'

Above: A pocket-sized theatrical event by Benedikt based on "Tears," a poem from THE BODY. (Poem to appear at this Webpage). Benedikt at right. Complete caption & larger version of this photo at Thematic Index
(link given just above this photo).


LINKS TO SELECTIONS FROM OTHER BENEDIKT BOOKS

Note: After completing THE BODY (l968) and SKY (l970), between l970 and l976 Benedikt wrote Prose Poems exclusively. They appear in MOLE NOTES (l971) and NIGHT CRIES (l976).
Selections from Benedikt's fourth poetry book, N.C., are available at:

Prose Poems
Brief Prose Poems

A couple of MOLE NOTES are online at:
Theater, Film, & TV Poems

Link to selections from Benedikt's fifth & most recent book of poetry:
The Badminton at Great Barrington


Click  Back  Up  To  Links  to  Other  Pages  Within  This  BODY-SKY  Website

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Graphic of Vine and Flowers
by June Hildebrand


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