Maxwell Bodenheim Poems : When Spirits Speak of Life

Three spirits sit upon a low stone wall placed on the top of a hill. Their figures are gray, with human outlines, and their faces are those of a boy, a woman, and an old man. Light is greeting intimations of evening. The wall, the hill, and the figures exist only to the spirits who have created them.

FIRST SPIRIT
We have made a wall
And take it gravely.

SECOND SPIRIT
The pensive vagary
That let us to return to earth
Welcomes these pretty illusions.
Stone wall, hill, and evening
Become the touch of spice
Precious to our weariness.

THIRD SPIRIT
The animated brevity
Of this world is captivating!
We have journeyed inward
To the ever-distant center of life,
Where language is a universe
Seething with variations,
And form becomes the changing warmth
Of wrestling influences;
Where motion is the plunging light of thoughts
Dying upon each other.

FIRST SPIRIT
We find an incredulous pleasure
In changing from violent influences
To breath that is mutilated with outlines.
With a subtle suspicion, we great
The tiny fables of our hands and feet.
We take the little blindness of eyes
To reassure ourselves
That the fables will not vanish.
Humorously we trade
Languages, like one who gives a plateau
For a drop of old liquor!

SECOND SPIRIT
Once we were germs of thought
Squirming under elastic disguises--
The bank-clerk inscribing tombstones;
The poet playing surgeon to his heart;
The cardinal starving his flesh.
Our bodies were images made by thought
And symbolizing the pain of its birth.
Murder, love, and theft
Were only struggling experiments
made by germs of thought emerging to form.

THIRD SPIRIT
What men call mysticism
Is the lull in which their germ
Of thought compensates itself
By dreaming of a future form.
But when the struggle is resumed,
It often derides its inactivity,
Scorning the brilliant trace of its exhaustion!

FIRST SPIRIT
And now, three tired spirits,
Seeking a weird trinket of the past,
Have slipped into a replica of birth.

SECOND SPIRIT
Because the gliding search of our life
Is lacking in one quality, amusement,
We shall often return
To evenings, men, and walls of stone.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011 - 13:33

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Maxwell Bodenheim

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