Selected Poems from
THE BODY by Michael Benedikt
(Wesleyan University Press, l968)(*)
(*) Page includes l998 updates of poems.
Poem Welcoming You To This Web-Page
Excuse me, isn't that you I see concealed underneath
Inside the 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 that, though,
Underneath the liquids & the various unobservant stuffs, too,
There is a spirit, shifting around from foot to foot.
[This Poem, from Part IV of THE BODY]
Note: Except for the above Welcoming-Poem, poems selected so far are from Part I of THE BODY. (THE BODY is a four-part book.)
Poems at this Page from THE BODY, Part I:
THE AMBITIOUS LUMP
MOTIONS (after Man Ray, Surrealist Photographer)
THE EUROPEAN SHOE
Complete original Table of Contents for Part I is given at end-of-page. (Link below has Return-Link). Click for Original l968 Table of Contents, Part I
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, rescuing 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.
When Geoffrey took over the presidency of the 'Large
Computer Company' shortly
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, 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.
Note: 'Leaf' is not a typo.
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....
after Man Ray, Surrealist Painter And 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
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
THE EUROPEAN SHOE
The European Shoe is covered with grass and reed, bound up and wound
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
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
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
The narcissist's eye is blue, fringed with white and covered with tempting
The purse-stealer's eye is yelllow.
The eye of the non-combatant is white. In the center is a target rendered in green
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
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
The eye of the Realist is inflatable!
(Links to Other Pages within BODY-SKY Website)
For some other BODY poems, including two additional poems from Part I, "The Helper" and "Mr. Rainman," temporarily residing at (of all places) a Benedikt Halloween-Page, Click Here
For Subject-Index to THE BODY and SKY (combined thematic index of Benedikt's first 2 poetry books), with brief commentary on their relation to l960's theater, art, & film Click Here
Note: After completing THE BODY (l968) and SKY (l970), between l970 and l976, Benedikt wrote Prose Poems exclusively. For l998 Updates of Poems from Benedikt's fourth poetry book, NIGHT CRIES (prose poems, 1976) Click Here
THE EYE OF THE ASSASSIN
THE EUROPEAN SHOE
THE AMBITIOUS LUMP
THE AIDER (retitled l998 as THE HELPER)
Click for Return-Link to Welcoming-Poem