Selected Poems from

THE BODY by Michael Benedikt

(Wesleyan University Press, l968)

Poems appear in l998/9 & Y2K-era updates

[ Last Modified fall '02.  2 Poems--'Thoughts' & 'Air'--revised in this edition.  Announcing  Site Searchbox ]

Most selections so far, from Parts I & II of THE BODY. Welcoming-Poem, below, from Part IV.

Besides   Titles of Poems At This Page  this page has Titles of All Poems At This Website

&  Links To The 4 Other Pages Of This Website

With portraits of poet by 2 distinguished US artists: photographer Rollie McKenna (1968) & painter Alice Neel (1967)

photo of Benedikt in 1968 by Rollie McKenna

Author  Bio.

Poem Welcoming You To This Web-Page


Excuse me, isn't that you I see semi-concealed over there
Sizing things up from inside the conning-tower of your head,
--Your eyes, like mine, looking out of twin perforations
And gliding around softly beneath the waters.
Strange to think we place such reliance on mere fluids!
Can ducts which punctuate the underground of a field
Examine it at will then, for buried treasure? Are rain-puddles spying on us both even now
And are raindrops tapping at our windows, voyeurs then?
Deep down under all those substances, though,
Beneath the liquids & various unobservant stuffs too,
There are spirits--immaterial, but shifting around from foot to foot.

[Note: Above, from Part IV of THE BODY. THE BODY is a IV-part book]


THE AMBITIOUS LUMP  (poem to return in a future edition of this page)
MOTIONS  (after Man Ray, Surrealist Photographer)
AN ENORMOUS DANGLING SACK-LIKE NET   (after Rene Magritte, Surrealist Painter)
3 Love Lyrics (Settings: gardens of verse, among flowers)
TIME  (with Illustration by Contemporary Graphic Artist June Hildebrand Abrams)
A BELOVED HEAD  (sci-fi love poetry, computer & all)
Forthcoming next: SOME FEELINGS  (after 20th Century US painter Larry Rivers)

Original l968 Table of Contents, Parts I & II of The Body
With  titles  of  those  poems  from  Parts  III &   IV  online  at  Other  Pages  Of  This  Website

[from Part I of THE BODY]


Air, air, you're the most ubiquitous yet omnipresent thing I know.
Not even the songs of whales tracing patterns
Beneath 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 around swimming-pools
So that when the excessively-dedicated swimmer may emerge
From the water an instant, he'll freeze;
Yet air, you're famous for hanging around fetid places
Also, ready to clear the dank atmosphere
With a breath of yourself--I’ve found you in
The slums of the intellect even, about to puff
When the mind’s tired after too much travel,
Or choking after contact with unthinking people
And you’re present in poems rescuing one when one’s feeling stifled
Poised like a bouquet there, sprightly and colorful.


[Poem Undergoing Revision. To Return in '03]


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,
Phyllis 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 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 shyly at midnight through the skylight
                                   and then with puckered lips sliding down towards him here
                                                                                                            --sailing 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 buzzing around a lamp in the hall
Then to drag them down the front flight of stairs
And to place 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 darkness-shrouded 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!

Titles of All Poems At This Page

[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, so simple 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

Above poem as illustrated (with flower in hatband) by contemporary graphic artist June Hildebrand Abrams


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 gardening 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...


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
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 souvenirs 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
After tiptoeing 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.

Titles of All Poems At This Page

[from Part III of THE BODY]


A beloved head, yes a beloved head indeed, he thought--although the mouth part was operated by a series
      of small treadles set into the floorboards and conveniently located in every room
The ears by various light-switches
And the eyes by twin faucets, mounted inside the writing-desk.
The hair was operated by a kind of abacus
Which helped him to keep track of various alluring developments there
--Sometimes, the fetching way it framed her lovely face or hung down loose and flowed across her shoulders
Could envelop the attention of the Operator.

The body of the beloved was operated from an immense panel
Covered with hundreds of dials and flashing lights, hard-wired to an immense computer behind the wall up there
One had to climb up to it by means of a ladder
Daring that only after consulting the manual which came with either the previous computer,
      or the previous beloved, sometimes the Operator just can't remember which
--How often she'd suddenly whirl around to turn towards him
Smiling inexplicably, yet with a gesture so gentle and rare

That he himself could hardly believe that he'd created it!

--Much less the captivating way she arched her back and threw back her head,
      or stretched out her arms in even the most commonplace of yawns;
Or the winsome way she reached up and adjusted earrings
      in her long blonde hair, or other jewelry come slightly awry
Or bent over after bathing, to comb it all out again
      leaving him incredulous and almost trembling then
(Perhaps, by accident, he'd accidentally brushed up against some tiny throttle
      located in the vicinity of her knee?)

True, sometimes even the most controlling mind collapses.
Just look at the way the Operator's slumped over now.
It's evening, he's tired, his head hurts,
And after manning all those controls all day, his hand's exhausted
--In fact, he's fallen asleep there in his chair.

While with eyes ablaze, his lover passes the time until his next awakening
By sitting around and sewing--presently the sleeve
Of a doll's kimono which quite generously albeit also somewhat whimsically
      she's decided to give to a Japanese friend of hers who collects such things...

Note: Yes, a computer appeared in the same role in the 1968 original of this sci-fi love poem about a supposedly computerized,
          robotic beloved--or, rather, about a would-be controlling mind which is not as controlling as it thinks it is.


Inspired by idea in 'Parts of The Face,' a 1960's painting by Larry Rivers. BTW, parts are labeled in French.
[ Poem forthcoming ]

Poems at this page first appeared in THE BODY, by Michael Benedikt (Wesleyan University Press, l968),
© l968 by Michael Benedikt. These revisions ('Webversions'), © l998, l999, 2000, 2001 & 2002 by Michael Benedikt.

(with Clickable Links To Poems)

Top of Page


Vine & Flowers
by June Hildebrand Abrams



Info Below  includes Complete  Original  l968  Table  of  Contents  of  THE  BODY,  Parts  I  &  II


MR. RAINMAN(at this webpage & also at Halloween-&-Horror Poems page)
THE EYE OF THE ASSASSIN  (at Halloween page)
THE AMBITIOUS LUMP (Poem to return to this page)
DIVINE LOVE (at Dark Love Poems page)
THE AIDER (retitled asTHE HELPER at this webpage & also at Halloween page)


THE GRAND GUIGNOLS OF LOVE (at Dark Love Poems page)
THE GREAT DIVAN (retitled as SEXTETTE: THE GREAT DIVAN (at Dark Love Poems page)
SOME OLD MEN (Halloween)
TEARS (New-in-'02 at Thematic Index page)

Listed below are selections from Parts III & IV of The Body online at this 5-page website so far

SOME FEELINGS (Forthcoming next to this page)
EVENTS BY MOONLIGHT (Dark Love Poems page)
JOY (Dark Love Poems page)
THE VILLAIN (Halloween)
BEFORE GOING ON (at Dark Love Poems page)

Return-Link to Top &
(with Links To Poems)

Top of Page

Site  Contents

Links To Other Pages Within This BODY-SKY Website

Page 1--Home Page

1968 & 1998 Benedikt photos & a more complete Bio. than appears here.

Page 2--Selections from THE BODY

This Page, with Selected Poems by a leading contemporary US Poet. From much-anthologized first book. Subjects in The Body (l968) range from droll to dark. In many poems, body parts cavort. Surrealist 'Black Humor' abounds. Quoth an early reviewer writing in later 1960's Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, in which many poems from Body first appeared: 'Benedikt's poems are a highly serious form of play.' (Many other critics have commented on Author's sense of humor). This Selections page includes Lyric & Narrative poems--as well as works in unusual poetic genres such as: 'list poems,' modern litanies, & 'concrete' poetry (examples forthcoming). More significantly in view of Benedikt's later poetry, this page also has several examples of verse with long lines extended into strophes, and verging on prose poetry--a genre dispensing with the line-break altogether. After Sky (l970), Benedikt wrote prose poems, exclusively for a while. Collected in Mole Notes (1971); and Night Cries (l976). Names of the many 1960's literary magazines in which Body and Sky poems first appeared, are given at this site's closing page (p. 5--Thematic Index).

Page 3--'Dark Love Poems'

From The Body. Also has an uncollected, 1963 Poem. Poems from Sky, forthcoming in '03.

Page 4--'Spooky Poems for Halloween & All Year Round'

Particularly eerie poems gathered from various sections of  The Body. With large-font versions of "The Helper" & "Mr. Rainman" residing at (of all places) an Award-Winning Halloween-&-Horror Page. Includes a poem from Sky.

Page 5--Thematic Index to THE BODY and SKY

Index of Topics in The Body and Sky. A college-level teacher & student modern poetry resource classifying poems by topic in Benedikt's first two poetry books. With Notes & Commentary on some thematic categories. So far, comments at page focus especially on the philosophy behind both poetry books, on the close relationship of both to the visual arts (such as Surrealism, Pop Art & Minimalist Art, and 1960's 'Happenings"); & on various innovative poetic techniques explored in both books. Index may be helpful as a teaching aid for later 20th Century Poetry classes & courses. May also be useful to Graduate students writing Modern Poetry theses & Undergraduate students writing Modern Poetry term-papers. General Readers seeking an overview of early poetry of Benedikt may enjoy Notes & Commentary. With unusual 1960's photos--visual arts related, and from Benedikt's 1960's Archive.

Searchbox. Search all 5 pages of this site at   Thematic Index.

Carole Schneemann in Event based poem
entitled 'Tears'

Above: Photo from Thematic Index: 1968 'Pocket Theater' event by Benedikt based on Body poem 'Tears.'
'Tears' (the poem) also appears there--added in '01 in memory of 911WTC Tragedy in NYC.
At center: performance artist Carolee Schneemann. Benedikt at right.

Thematic Index has larger version of photo & complete caption--with info on this & poet's other later 1960's Poetry-&-Theater events.

Brief Benedikt Bio.

Complete bio. appears in Who's Who in America; Who's Who in World; Who's Who in Entertainment, etc.

Selections from Benedikt's other poetry books appear at sites listed at end-of-page at  Other Benedikt Websites:

Contemporary US Poet Michael Benedikt's publications include 5 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; & with Wesleyan University Press: Night Cries (prose poems, l976); Mole Notes (prose poems, l971); Sky (l970); and The Body (l968). Benedikt's recent poetry has appeared in Agni, Iowa Review, Jerusalem ReviewLips, Michigan Quarterly Review,  The New Republic,  New York Quarterly, Partisan Review, The Paris Review & Washington Square.  His work appears in 65 + anthologies of US poetry.

Anthologies of poetry in translation under Benedikt's editorship are The Prose Poem: An International Anthology (Dell/Laurel, l976); and The Poetry of Surrealism (Little, Brown & Co., l974). He's also co-Editor &Translator, with theatre critic George E. Wellwarth, of 3 anthos. of 20th-Century European plays: Modern French Theatre: The Avant-Garde, Dada, & Surrealism (E.P. Dutton, l964); Post-War German Theatre (Dutton, l967); and Modern Spanish Theatre (Dutton, l969). He's the editor of Theatre Experiment: American Plays (Doubleday, l967). Benedikt is a former Associate Ed. of Art News and Art International. A former Poetry Ed. of The Paris Review, his editorial selections are represented in The Paris Review Anthology (Norton, l990). Benedikt is a Contributing Editor for American Poetry Review.

Benedikt taught Literature & Creative Writing as Visiting Prof. at Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, Vassar, Hampshire College and Boston University. Grants and Awards have included a Guggenheim Grant, a NY State Council On The Arts Grant, and an NEA Fellowship. He's read from his poetry at many colleges and universities around the USA. In l986 he gave a videotaped 'retrospective' reading at invitation of Library of Congress. Recent readings at several Barnes & Noble 'Superstores' in the NY Metro area. A graduate of NYU's Washington Square College & Columbia University, he lives in Upper West Side Manhattan. E-mail:

Photo near top of page: Benedikt in devilish mood in Manhattan Apt ca. 1968 (year Body was published), by Rollie McKenna
Below: placid Portrait of Benedikt in 1967, by Alice Neel

Alice Neel: Benedikt 1967

Info re background of Benedikt 's Y2K-era Websites via feature article at
'The Compleat Michael Benedikt--Poet Laureate of The Net'

More About Benedikt at
Benedikt Pages--The Academy of American Poets

Photo & Welcoming-Poem

(with Links to Poems)




After completing THE BODY (l968) and SKY (l970), Benedikt wrote Prose Poems exclusively until l976.
They appear in his 3rd poetry book MOLE NOTES (l971) and his 4th, NIGHT CRIES (l976).

Selections from N.C. are available online at:

Brief Prose Poems
Prose Poems & Microfictions

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

And there's another from MOLE at Xmas Site:
'Xmas On Bay State Road' & Other Poems

Selections from Benedikt's 5th & most recent book of poetry at:
The Badminton at Great Barrington

Manuscript-In-Progress At:
The Thesaurus & Other New Verse New Poems added in '02

Links  to  Other  Pages  Within  This  BODY-SKY  Website

Next Page of This Site--'Dark Love Poems'

BODY-SKY Home Page

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