Poetry: Michael Benedikt - Thoughts - Air - The cities - Motions - The helper - Bio

Posted by ricardo marcenaro | Posted in | Posted on 1:44


Excuse me, isn't that you I see 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 isn't it that 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 on our windows, voyeurs then?
Deep down under all those inert substances, though,
Beneath the liquids & various unobservant stuffs too,
There are spirits--immaterial yet shifting around from foot to foot.


Air, air, you're the distantmost thing I know.
Not even the songs of whales tracing patterns
On top of or 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're ever-present around swimming-pools
So that when the excessively-dedicated swimmer may emerge
From the water an instant, he'll freeze;
And 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 somewhat stifled
Poised like a bouquet there, sprightly and colorful.


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....


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


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.


Michael Benedikt was born in 1935 in New York City. He received his B.A. from New York University and earned a Master's Degree in English & Comparative Literature from Columbia University.[1]

Prior to publishing his first collection of poetry, Benedikt co-edited three anthologies of 20th-Century Poetic Theatre from abroad. His anthology of twentieth-century American plays was issued in 1968. He was also the editor of two landmark anthologies of twentieth-century poetry: The Poetry of Surrealism in 1974; and The Prose Poem: An International Anthology in 1976. Benedikt was Poetry Editor for The Paris Review from 1975 to 1978. His editorial selections are represented in The Paris Review Anthology in 1990. Occasionally active as a critic/journalist, he is also a former Associate Editor of Art News and Art International. His literary criticism has appeared in Poetry and The American Book Review.

Poems as yet uncollected in book form have appeared in the 1990s in such literary magazines as Agni, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and Partisan Review. His honors include a New York State Council for The Arts Grant, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and an NEA Fellowship. He has taught at Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, Vassar, Hampshire Colleges, and at Boston University.[1]

    The Badminton at Great Barrington; or, Gustave Mahler & The Chattanooga Choo-Choo (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980)
    Night Cries (prose poems, 1976)
    Mole Notes (prose poems, 1971)
    Sky (1970)
    The Body (1968)


    Modern French Theatre: The Avant-Garde, Dada, & Surrealism (1964)


Poetry: Michael Benedikt - Thoughts - Air - The cities - Motions - The helper - Bio

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