Thoughts While Walking

A steel hush freezes the trees.
It is my mind stretched to stiff lace,
And draped on high wide thoughts.

My soul is a large sallow park
And people walk on it, as they do on the park before me.
They numb my levelness with dumb feet,
Yet I cannot even hate them.
 

More by Maxwell Bodenheim

To One Dead

I walked upon a hill
And the wind, made solemnly drunk with your presence,
Reeled against me.
I stooped to question a flower,
And you floated between my fingers and the petals,
Tying them together.
I severed a leaf from its tree
And a water-drop in the green flagon
Cupped a hunted bit of your smile.
All things about me were steeped in your remembrance
And shivering as they tried to tell me of it.

Advice to a Blue-Bird

Who can make a delicate adventure
Of walking on the ground?
Who can make grass-blades
Arcades for pertly careless straying?
You alone, who skim against these leaves,
Turning all desire into light whips
Moulded by your deep blue wing-tips,
You who shrill your unconcern
Into the sternly antique sky.
You to whom all things
Hold an equal kiss of touch.

Mincing, wanton blue-bird,
Grimace at the hoofs of passing men.
You alone can lose yourself
Within a sky, and rob it of its blue!
 

Instructions for a Ballet

Raise the right foot—bound in sheer
Reasons of white and gold—
One inch from the black stage-floor.
Then perform these torpid words:
“Money is dangerous to men:
It shames the clearness of their thoughts.”
After thus accounting
For the loquacious smallness
Of those rare gifts that come from doubting men,
Tear the left foot vigorously
From the black grip of the floor,
And attend its nakedness
With this coronation of words:
“Money is emptiness
Curiously violated by colour.
Crown it with originality
That burns with careless discernment,
And amaze the limpid
Familiarity of Time.”
After thus accounting
For an improbable situation,
Abandon the farce and shrewdly
Tiptoe across the stage,
Peering down at your feet
And mistaking their lean mysteries
For possibilities in syncopation.
Having thus emulated
The tension of a psycho-analyst
Who confuses routines with causes,
Suddenly kneel upon the floor,
Limp with the collapse of sightless longing,
And raise one hand to the sky
While clenching on the other hand at your audience,
Thus expressing the thoughtful perturbations
Of Occidental religions.
Then dance across the stage,
Giving complex decisions to your legs
And interrupting the dance with a pause
In which you question its cumbersome cause.
Having thus defended
The broken rhythm of Western philosophers—
Sprinkled with a carnival of details—
Change the dance to a borrowed waltz,
Picking suave tricks from a harp
That lacks an ascending scale of notes,
And insisting that the result is music.
The end of the ballet should portray
A gradual sinking to the floor,
With plentiful whispers resenting
The final intrusion of Buddha.

Related Poems

Francesca

You came in out of the night
And there were flowers in your hands,
Now you will come out of a confusion of people,
Out of a turmoil of speech about you.

I who have seen you amid the primal things
Was angry when they spoke your name
In ordinary places.
I would that the cool waves might flow over my mind,
And that the world should dry as a dead leaf,
Or as a dandelion seed-pod and be swept away,
So that I might find you again,
Alone.