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Best Poems Written by Benjamin Toney

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Details | Benjamin Toney Poem

The Armless Ambidextrian

I. The Love of Minds

The volume on the desk,
The one not claimed by dust or burned
By light, will follow her to bed tonight.
Its pages will be turned and smothered,
Each in turn, so as not to rouse in jealousy
The one towards the other. Its spine,
Induced to weariness, will rest upon her pillow
With the light brown curls of hair
Bathing themselves in the glow
Of moonlight.
She holds the cover to her breasts
And dreams of Paris in the spring.
("My darling, you are such a simple, such a splendid thing...")
A stranger in the office where she works
Is familiar with the phrases and vernacular, so she intends
To learn from him, if not, then from a book.
With knowledge there is wisdom
And with wisdom there is might.

Perhaps the three of us could interest you
In a friendly game of cards.
You may wager what you like
Or none at all, but be prepared
To spend the night.
The children in the schoolyard
Playing football, do not yet fully realize
That there is very little sport in violence;
Very little sport,
Or none at all.

II. The Wiser Man Has Spoken

"The best years of my life were spent
Performing someone else's chores,
Dusting the picture frames or opening the door
For strangers sharing tea, all of them quite pleasant,
Wearing pleated trousers."

These fingers, held against your wrist,
Have monitored the flow of blood,
The flow of time.
These eyes have chosen blindness,
Looking away towards the garden
Where the roses set the laws and make the rules.
These ears ignored the whispers and the threats,
Hearing only the sounds of music in the ballroom,
Your daughters dancing with the gentleman from Germany.

"Traffic seldom passes my way.
When night falls, I can hear it in the distance
If only for an instant,
While I dream."

III. I Heard the Mermaids Singing

Early in the morning,
Before the sun resumes bathing
The earth in shadow, rinsing
The streaks of moonlight from its skin, wiping
The stars from your eyes,
I heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I heard the mermaids singing...

The sidewalk shouts
The street lamp sings a melody
Familiar to your ear, did you hear
The woman calling from the doorway as you passed?
(The candor of her garments caught your eye.)
Regard her from a distance,
If she speaks, do not reply.
Tomorrow, you'll be thankful that you've listened.

Tomorrow's list of obvious affairs
Was written on the table
With the matching set of chairs,
Revised and re-prepared
Without my knowledge or consent.
When I was young I often went
With Lucy to the fair. We dined
At eight, then met the others there,
Beneath the lights.

"Please sing that song again my darling girl,
Please sing that song again."

The wounded hunter
Waited calmly as she read
The latest poll, The Burial of the Dead,
And something Sylvia had said:
"Please taste this pastry dear
And tell me what you think, I intend
To serve it to the guests this afternoon
With tea. Don't roll your eyes at me!
I want to leave them with a fine impression,
So please cooperate my dear,
If not for you, at least for me."
Another evening exposed,
His window opened to the world.

"Please sing that song again my darling girl,
Please sing that song again."

A sentimental tune
Played with purpose on a summer afternoon,
Foretells the fate of August
And recalls the ghosts of June.
You have your youth; you have your health,
The company of friends.
(I hope the story does not end on such a sour note.)
Take down this stranger's address
And remember it by rote.
Awaken in the morning
Wash your face and read the Times,
Your seldom opened blinds
Preserve discretion as you dress.
Rise up,
Beethoven's blessing rests upon your shoulder,
The world awaits you just beyond the door.
Destruction or deliverance,
You dream of something more;
While voices chase the shadows to the floor.

IV. The Paralytic's Plight

Tomorrow's lips are smiling,
Smiling at the audience held captive at its feet
Waiting for the bells to ring.
The past is slowly dying.
The fantasies grow dull,
The memories obscure and hard to trace;
All of them forgotten,
All but one.

Let us stand as one and sing with untrained voices.

Shall I accept this gift
Of life, the curse of death
Removed from my head?
Dwelling in a waterless region
I have not eaten for the famine,
Or asked because of reason,
Or slept because of dreams.
"I am weary of the garden", said the rose,
"The color of my eyes, the shape of my nose,
And the antiquated fashion of my clothes."

"Please sing that song again my darling girl,
Please sing that song again."

And thus,
You are acquainted with the paralytic's plight.
He listens to the stories,
To the fables read at night,
While the rest spin strands of moonlight
Round their fingers.
His discontentment lingers like a summer afternoon,
The chorus of a sentimental tune.

Let us stand as one and sing with untrained voices.






Copyright © 1994-2018 by Benjamin Toney.  All rights reserved.
Previously published 1995-96 in Central High School's annual The Tempest, under pseudonym.
Image credit: "Creative's Rising" by Artist Sharon Lyn Stackpole | via https://sharonlyn.com

Copyright © Benjamin Toney | Year Posted 2018



Details | Benjamin Toney Poem

September's Song

We live beneath the ground,
Buried in the soil, strangled by the roots,
Sustaining someone else's growth.
The rain makes matters worse.
The sunlight dries our eyes
And sets our dreams ablaze;
We spend our days
In silence.
Our voices are inaudible,
Our mouths are filled with clay;
We suffocate expressions
So they stumble forth and die.

Watch closely though
And I will show you scenes
From countless dreams and abstract inspirations,
The twisted inclinations
Of lonely street lamps standing in a crowd,
Shining forth at midnight.

I am your closest friend,
The one that figures foremost in your memories,
The one you'll call for at your journey's end.
Remember how I wrote to you
With words extracted from my heart,
On pages stained by tears?
(So much depends upon your answer.)

September's song has finished,
Trailing off towards the August moon.
I had a premonition that my life would end
On this, the other side of June.
Too bad,
There is so much,
So much more that I would like to do.
If only I could make the time,
If only I could find my place.






Copyright © 1994-2018 by Benjamin Toney.  All rights reserved.
Image credit: Artist Sharon Lyn Stackpole | via https://sharonlyn.com

Copyright © Benjamin Toney | Year Posted 2018

Details | Benjamin Toney Poem

Twilight

I.
Twilight,
The evening spreads itself across the sky
Like a canvas,
Splashed with hues of frantic yellow, somber blue,
And hectic red,
Captured in a shapeless frame
And hung upon the wall for all to see.
The throngs, which fill the gallery
Observe in silence
As the colors fade and slowly are forgotten,
Like the nursery rhymes you favored as a child.

II.
Twilight:
The moment when a thousand words are spent
Without reward.
The tools that carved the fate of nations
And changed the face of countless maps
Have lost their strength.
The swords that caused the heavens to collapse
Have lost their edge.
They struggle for a semblance of significance,
Like a dying man struggling for breath,
But none is found.
Disturbing silence is expected
And preferred.

III.
Daybreak!
An agitated clock demands attention.
You wake from slumber,
Peeling away the sheets that held you in,
And place your feet upon the floor.
These feet will carry you
Throughout your expedition;
Through half worn paths and crowded streets,
Through triumphs and defeats
As fragile and as momentary
As a woman's affection.
These feet will carry you,
When your day's dilemmas are resolved,
Past a change in your complexion
And towards a certain certainty.
Back towards the tomb from which you rose
With eyes half closed
But flushed with curiosity;
Beneath the layers of dusty sheets
That bound you in a state of sleep.

As nightfall moves throughout the city
Your thoughts are laid to rest,
Sealing your spirit in slumber.
Another person takes a number,
And another day begins.






Copyright © 1994-2018 by Benjamin Toney.  All rights reserved.
Previously published in Central High School's annual The Tempest, 1995-96, under pseudonym.

Copyright © Benjamin Toney | Year Posted 2018

Details | Benjamin Toney Poem

October

October is a tragedy
Written by the ghosts of summertime,
Discharging promises and platitudes
Like an old man seated on a rocking chair;
Reciting them time and again,
Building false hope
Like a child
Building a house with playing cards.
Ferocious wind, a gentle thump,
They crumble;
Returning to a predetermined purpose,
Bound by a preexisting oath.






Copyright © 1994-2018 by Benjamin Toney.  All rights reserved.
Published 2016 in "Up In Smoke" via wattpad.com

Copyright © Benjamin Toney | Year Posted 2018

Details | Benjamin Toney Poem

The Company of Fools

                                  "No, I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
                                  Am an attendant lord, one that will do
                                  To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
                                  Advise the prince; no doubt an easy tool,
                                  Deferential, glad to be of use,
                                  Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
                                  Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
                                  At times, indeed, almost ridiculous-
                                  Almost, at times, the Fool."
                                                        —The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
                                                                      by T. S. Eliot, published 1917

Welcome to the garden of repose,
Where feats of passion writhe within the throes
Of a coward's disposition.
Welcome to the dimly lit retreat
Of those so often passed along the street
Without attracting much attention.
Here, behind the garden's wall,
They hide themselves from love's foreboding call
And flee from its insidious effects,
The thousands of emotions that bewilder and perplex,
Consuming and corrupting like a cancer
Regardless of your answer.

I have heard the language of the sea...

Saturday afternoon,
The hours linger like an inoffensive mood
Of undesired influence.
Sitting on a solitary bench,
Beside a solitary stream,
You lie awake and softly dream
Of an angelic figure
Which, by now, is quite familiar
To the focus of your eyes
And the chambers of your heart.

One by one,
The footsteps fall;
(Your finest hour rests within your hand!)
One by one,
The footsteps fade,
Without a simple introduction or a subtle invitation,
Because you lack the strength to stand,
Much less, to speak.
Your aspirations of a high romance
Have been postponed,
Until another inconvenient time;
Until another, more imposing circumstance.

I have heard the language of the sea,
Its soothing sounds of savagery,
And I have been delighted by the dialogue...

Black tie,
Your garments are selected
For the evening's main event.
You will regret the time you've spent
Standing in a trance before your mirror
Attempting to perfect
The confidence projected by the condescending eye;
Trying to prepare an answer
For the who, the where, the why;
Trying to refine your speech
So that the meaning comes home clearer.
You will regret the time you've spent
When you fail.

Through a constant flow of conversation
On matters of morality and manners
Of subtlety and scandal,
You will not be asked to speak
And you will not volunteer.
You will spend the evening in a corner
Enjoying the acquaintance of a wall.

I have heard the language of the sea,
It's senseless sounds of savagery,
And I have been delighted by the dialogue;
But like the herds that fill the synagogues
I soon forget the meaning of the words.
I am content to listen for a time,
To contend with my dilemma
Lying in the shadow of an oversized umbrella
Upon the dry, and stable, shore.

I have heard the passionate soliloquy
Of one's young patroness, perched upon her balcony,
And lying in the shadows far below
I have chosen to preserve my anonymity.

Perhaps, one day, you will join me.






The Company of Fools – Copyright © 1994-2018 by Benjamin Toney.  All rights reserved.  
Previously published in Central High School's annual The Tempest, 1995-96, under pseudonym. 
Initial quoted excerpt from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot, published in London by The Egoist, Ltd, 1917. 

Copyright © Benjamin Toney | Year Posted 2018



Details | Benjamin Toney Poem

City of Lights

The last time I saw Paris
The lights had vanished from the skyline.
She sat quite calmly,
Speaking in a common tongue,
Words that soon dissolved like my intentions.
Her eyes met mine
Then turned away towards the moon.
I sat alone in midnight's room,
Lost in thought and memory;
Dreaming of what might have been,
Pleased with what will never be.






Copyright © 1997 -2018 by Benjamin Toney.  All rights reserved.
Image credit: Etienne Laurent/EPA

Copyright © Benjamin Toney | Year Posted 2018

Details | Benjamin Toney Poem

She

Bound by nothing that is common
To the ragged soul of man,
Nothing that causes the insistent pulse to quicken
Or the measured step to slow,
Her eyes divert attention from the evening's afterglow
And lead us toward the chambers of the sea.
Waking the dead with frozen hands
She ventures forth but once a year
To tease the mind and tempt the ear
With stories of the spring.






Copyright © 1997-2018 by Benjamin Toney.  All rights reserved.
Image credit: The old grey teacher | Photography by Zena Holloway | United Kingdom

Copyright © Benjamin Toney | Year Posted 2018

Details | Benjamin Toney Poem

To All The Mornings of the World -Quantum Mutata

I have never felt so warm
As in the months of winter. There is
Something more substantial in the crispness
Of the air and the dryness
Of the trees, something that provokes
My deepest sympathy. As children
We walked through the streets after dark
Watching the drunkards sweep
The sidewalks with their sleeves.
We were not afraid of darkness
Or of shadow,
But only
The silence of our sleep
And the awkwardness of dreams.






Copyright © 1997-2018 by Benjamin Toney.  All rights reserved. 
Image credit: Central Park Bow Bridge. . . | Francois Roux | United States

Copyright © Benjamin Toney | Year Posted 2018

Details | Benjamin Toney Poem

Metropolitan

Times Square
Intersects the television screen.
At the crescendo of the scene
A starlet sings a melancholy song,
Hiding in a costume that disguises
The method she employs
To hypnotize the audience.






Copyright © 1997-2018 by Benjamin Toney.  All rights reserved.

Copyright © Benjamin Toney | Year Posted 2018

Details | Benjamin Toney Poem

Woman at the Window

The sunlight broke the silence of the glass
To serenade the silhouette within.
That time of day when swallowed doubts slip in
Like uninvited guests,
She gazes out the window
After buttoning her dress,
Reminded of the failures of her past.






Copyright © 1997-2018 by Benjamin Toney.  All rights reserved.
Image credit: Woman at the Window by Jozef Israëls | Hamburger Kunsthalle Museum  

Copyright © Benjamin Toney | Year Posted 2018

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