Selected Poems from

THE BODY by Michael Benedikt

(Wesleyan University Press, l968)

Poems appear in l998/9 & Y2K-era updates

[Last Modified 12/01. Last Major Modification 10/01]

Besides   Titles of Poems At This Page--including a poem added in recent editions--this page has   Titles of All Poems At This 5-Page Website

& provides  Links To Other Pages At This Website

Poem Welcoming You To This Web-Page

Click for Brief Benedikt Bio.


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, from Part IV of THE BODY]

Poems at this page so far are selected from Parts I & II of THE BODY--except for Welcoming-Poem above, from Part III.
Note: THE BODY is a IV-part book.


MOTIONS (after Man Ray, Surrealist Photographer)
AN ENORMOUS DANGLING SACK-LIKE NET   (after Rene Magritte, Surrealist Painter)
New in '01 TIME (with Illustration by June Hildebrand)
New in '01 PINK BUDS
New in later '01 Editions  A BELOVED HEAD

Complete Original l968 Table of Contents, Parts I & II of The Body
Also  gives  titles  of  those  poems  from  Parts  III &  IV  online  at  other  pages  of  this  5-page  Website

Site Contents
With  Links  To  Other  Body-Sky  Pages  &  Brief  Descriptions  of  all  5  Pages

Both the above Links have Return-Links to here

[from Part I of THE BODY]


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.


When papa hit Geoffrey with the frying pan
It was his initial adult experience
And it kept on increasing and 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 almost totally crippled. 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 kept hitting 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.

Notes: (1) Original of line 9 referred to 'large construction corporation.'
(2) The word 'Leaf,' just above, 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,
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 and gazing down at midnight through the skylight
                                                                             and then sliding down 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 for above poem (with flower in hatband) by graphic artist June Hildebrand


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...


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.

[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 distract 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, the beloved 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 also appeared in the 1968 original of this poem about
a would-be controlling mind which is not as controlling as it thinks

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 by Michael Benedikt.

Vine and Flowers
by artist June Hildebrand




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  (Halloween page)
DIVINE LOVE (at New-in-'01 Dark Love Poems page)
THE AIDER (retitled as THE HELPER at this webpage & also at Halloween page)


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



EVENTS BY MOONLIGHT (at New Dark Love Poems page)
JOY (at New Dark Love Poems page)
THE VILLAIN (Halloween)
BEFORE GOING ON (at New Dark Love Poems page)

Return-Link to
(with Clickable Links To Poems)

Top of Page

Brief Benedikt Bio.

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

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

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. With Wesleyan University Press: Night Cries (prose poems, l976); Mole Notes (prose poems, l971); Sky (l970); and The Body (l968). Benedikt's recent, l990's poetry appeared in Agni, Iowa Review, Jerusalem ReviewLips, Michigan Quarterly Review,  The New Republic,  New York Quarterly, Partisan Review; and several times in The Paris Review--most recently, a long poem about Einstein in (PR #151). His work appears in 65 + anthologies of modern & contemporary US poetry.

Anthologies of poetry in translation under his editorship are The Prose Poem: An International Anthology (Dell/Laurel, l976); and The Poetry of Surrealism (Little, Brown & Co., l974). Benedikt is 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 currently a Contributing Editor for American Poetry Review and The Prose Poem: An International Journal.

Benedikt taught Literature and Creative Writing as Visiting Prof. at Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, Vassar, Hampshire College and Boston University. Grants and Awards have included a 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. He gave a videotaped 'retrospective' reading at invitation of The Library of Congress in l986. Recent readings, at several Barnes & Noble "Superstores" in the NY Metro area. Benedikt is a graduate of Columbia University, & of NYU's Washington Square College. He lives in Upper West Side Manhattan, NYC. E-mail at

Photo of Benedikt in Manhattan Apt. by Rollie McKenna

Return-Links to


(with Clickable Links  to All Poems at Website)

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 from much-anthologized 1968 first book by a much-published, leading contemporary US Poet.  Subjects in THE BODY range from droll to dark. Surrealist 'Black Humor' abounds. Narrative & lyric poems--as well as poems in unusual genres including modern litanies, 'list poems,'& prose poetry. Last page of site (p.5--Thematic Index) discusses those, & other categories of poems in detail. This Selections page includes several examples of verse with long lines extending into strophe, and verging on prose poetry. In the 1970's Benedikt turned from verse & published two books of prose poetry, a genre which dispenses with the line-break altogether (MOLE NOTES--1971; and NIGHT CRIES--1976). Quoth an early reviewer writing in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse--which published more poems from THE BODY than any other literary periodical: 'Benedikt's poems are a highly serious form of play.' (Many other critics have commented on Benedikt's sense of humor. Funny poems abound in all his early books). A list of the many 1960's literary magazines which published poems from THE BODY and SKY, appears at last page of site (p.5--Thematic Index).

Page 3--'Dark Love Poems'

New Page Online 1/01.  Mostly from THE BODY. (Also has an earlier, circa l963, thus far Uncollected Poem).

Page 4--'Spooky Poems for Halloween'

For Halloween, & also for year-round fans of horror poetry. Page has particularly eerie poems from various sections of THE BODY. With large-font versions of "The Helper" & "Mr. Rainman" residing at (of all places) an Award-Winning All Hallows Eve 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 surveying Benedikt's first 2 poetry books according to themes which appear in them, with extensive commentary on several thematic categories. So far, comments at page focus especially on the philosophy behind both books, on the various innovative techniques used in them, & on the unusually close relationship of both books to the visual arts--such as Surrealism, Pop Art & Minimalist Art, and l960's 'Happenings." Index is intended mainly as a teaching aid for later 20th Century &/or Modern poetry classes & courses. May also be useful to Graduate & Undergraduate students writing modern poetry theses and term-papers . Although an educational page, General Readers seeking an overview of Benedikt's early poetry may enjoy informal updated-in-'01 Notes & Commentary--& many new-in-'01 1960's photos from Benedikt's 1960's Archive.

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

Above: Photo from Thematic Index.   Pocket-sized theatrical event by Benedikt based on 'Tears,' poem which closes Part II of BODY
New in later '01 'Tears' now also appears there, too--presented in memory of victims of 9-11-01 WTC Tragedy. Poem's accompanied by larger version of photo & complete caption--with info on this & Benedikt's other later 1960's Poetry-&-Theater events.

Return-Link to
(with Clickable Links to all Poems at Website)

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

& New Listing there's also one at Xmas On Bay State Road

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

manuscript-in-progress at:
New Listing  The Thesaurus & Other New Verse

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

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


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