Selected Poems from

THE BODY by Michael Benedikt

(Wesleyan University Press, l968)

Poems appear in l998/9 updates

This Page Last Modified 4/99 & 2/00 in prep. for further Modifications in 2000

Poem Welcoming You To This Web-Page


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 Part I.
(Most of the others here are from THE BODY, Part II).


MOTIONS (after Man Ray, Surrealist Photographer)
AN ENORMOUS DANGLING SACK-LIKE NET (after Rene Magritte, Surrealist Painter)
 New (with Illustration by June Hildebrand)

  Click for Original l968 Table of Contents
Click for Brief Benedikt Biography

Links given above have Return-Links to here


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.


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 reached adulthood, and took over the presidency of 'The Humongous
    Computer Company'
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
                                                 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


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 towards him
                                                                                            straight down the bannister

You stand out enough!


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 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

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 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

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]




Was the arrangement made between the two couples legal?


Did they spread the word around?


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


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?


Have you ever been married?

I don't remember.

Do you love your husband?



May I please have this dance?


May I please have that dance?


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


Are you a good dancer?


Do you know how to dance?


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.



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


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


Aren't you absolutely sure?


Aren't you absolutely sure?


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?



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


Would you care to pay him a little visit?


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


Are you really his legal guardian?


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


Do you have a favorite hobby?

Yes. Devoting myself entirely to that boy!


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....


                                                                 The cleft in my hat
                                                                          is bearing a little soot
                                                                 A seed falls
                                                 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


Original l968 Table of Contents: THE BODY, Part I

THE AIDER (retitled at this website as THE HELPER)

Return-Link to Near Top

Brief Benedikt Biography

Michael Benedikt has published 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). His anthologies of plays include three volumes of European drama co-edited with George Wellwarth: Modern French Theatre: The Avant-Garde, Dada, & Surrealism (E.P. Dutton, l964); Post-War German Theatre (Dutton, l967); & Modern Spanish Theatre (Dutton, l969). He is also the editor of Theatre Experiment: American Plays (Doubleday, l967). He 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). His 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). He is currently a Contributing Editor for American Poetry Review and The Prose Poem: An International Journal. His work appears in numerous anthologies of US poetry. 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 and bookstores, etc., around the USA. Benedikt is the subject of a Library of Congress Videotape. He lives in Manhattan, NYC.

E-mail at

Return-Link to Near Top


For some poems from some other sections of THE BODY--including large typeface versions of "The Helper" and "Mr. Rainman," still temporarily residing at (of all places)
an Award-Winning 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 notes on some of the poems--including commentary on their relation to
l960's underground theater, the visual arts, & film

  Click Here


Note: After completing THE BODY (l968) and SKY (l970), between l970 and l976 Benedikt wrote Prose Poems exclusively, collected 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

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


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