Maxwell Bodenheim Poems : Impulsive Dialogue

POET
Will you, like other men,
Offer me indigo indignities?

UNDERTAKER
Indigo indignities!
The words are like a mermaid and a saint
Doubting each other's existence with a kiss.

POET
The words of most men kiss
With satiated familiarity.
Indigo is dark and vehement,
But one word in place of two
Angers barmaids and critics.

UNDERTAKER
Straining after originality
You argue with its ghost!
A simple beauty, like morning
Harnessed by a wide sparkle
And plodding into the hearts of men,
Cannot reach your frantic juggling.

POET
I can appreciate
The spontaneous redundancy of nature
Without the aid of an echo
From men who lack her impersonal size.

UNDERTAKER
The sweeping purchase of an evening
By an army of stars;
The bold incoherence of love;
The peaceful mountain-roads of friendship--
These things evade your dexterous epigrams!

POET
A statue, polished and large,
Dominates when it stands alone.
Placed in a huge profusion of statues
Its outlines become humiliated.
Simplicity demands one gesture
And men give it endless thousands.
Complexity wanders through a forest,
Glimpsing details in the gloom.

UNDERTAKER
I do not crave the dainty pleasure
Of chasing ghosts in a forest!
Nor do I care to pluck
Exaggerated mushrooms in the gloom.
I have lost myself on roads
Crossed by tossing hosts of men.
Pain and anger have scorched our slow feet:
Peace has washed our foreheads.

POET
Futility, massive and endless,
Captures a stumbling grandeur
Embalmed in history.
In my forest you could see this
From a distance and lose
Your limited intolerance.
Simplicity and subtlety
At different times are backgrounds for each other,
Changing with the position of our eyes.
Death will burn your eyes
With his taciturn complexity.

UNDERTAKER
Death will strike your eyes
With his wild simplicity!

POET
Words are soldiers of fortune
Hired by different ideas
To provide an importance for life
But within the glens of silence
They meet in secret peace. . . .
Undertaker, do you make of death
A puffing wretch forever pursued
By duplicates of vanquished forms?
Or do you make him a sneering King
Brushing flies from his bloodless cheeks?
Do you see him as an unappeased brooding
Walking over the dust of men?
Do you make him an eager giant
Discovering and blending into his consciousness
The tiny parts of his limitless mind?

UNDERTAKER
Death and I do not know each other.
I am the stolid janitor
Who cleans the litter he has left
And claims a fancied payment.

POET
Come to my fantastic forest
And you will not need to rise
From simple labours, asking death
For final wages.

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Friday, May 13, 2011 - 01:19

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Maxwell Bodenheim

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