A “delightful” (Poetry), celebratory volume of late-life poems from the award-winning octogenarian Marie Ponsot.
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Marie Ponsot is the author of six collections of poetry. Professor Emerita of English at Queens College, CUNY, she teaches at the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y and at the New School in Manhattan. Her awards include the Phi Beta Kappa Medal, the Shaughnessy Prize of the Modern Language Association, and the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal for lifetime achievement. She lives in New York City.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
THIS BRIDGE, LIKE POETRY, IS VERTIGO
In a time of dearth bring forth number, weight, & measure.
Describing the wind that drives it, cloud
rides between earth and space. Cloud
shields earth from sun-scorch. Cloud
bursts to cure earth’s thirst. Cloud
—airy, wet, photogenic—
is a bridge or go-between;
it does as it is done by.
It condenses. It evaporates.
It draws seas up, rains down.
I do love the drift of clouds.
Cloud-love is irresistible,
Deep above the linear city this morning
the cloud’s soft bulk is almost unmoving.
The winds it rides are thin;
it makes them visible.
As sun hits it or if sun
quits us it’s blown away
or rains itself or snows itself away.
It is indefinite:
This dawns on me: no cloud is measurable.
Make mine cloud.
Make mind cloud.
The clarity of cloud is in its edgelessness,
its each instant of edge involving
in formal invention, always
at liberty, at it, incessantly altering.
A lucky watcher will catch it
as it makes big moves:
up the line of sight it lifts
until it conjugates or
its unidentical being intact
though it admits flyers.
It lets in wings. It lets them go.
It lets them.
It embraces mountains & spires built
to be steadfast; as it goes on
it lets go of them.
It is not willing.
It is not unwilling.
Late at night when my outdoors is
indoors, I picture clouds again:
Come to mind, cloud.
Come to cloud, mind.
Waste-pipe sweat, unchecked, has stained the floor
under the kitchen sink. For twenty years
it’s eased my carelessness into a mean soft place,
its dirty secret dark, in a common place.
Today the pipe’s fixed. Workmen rip up the floor
that’s served and nagged me all these good/bad years.
They cut and set in new boards, to last for years.
House-kept no more, I waltz out of the place
clean-shod and leave no footprint on the floor,
displaced and unfloored. This year, nothing goes to waste.
TV, EVENING NEWS
—seen on CNN, autumn 2005, Afghanistan
It’s a screenful of chaos but
the cameraman’s getting good framing shots
from behind one woman’s back.
The audio’s poor. The shouts are slices of noise.
I don’t know the languages.
No hot hit heroes are there.
No wicked people are there.
Achilles is not there, or Joshua either.
Rachel is not there, nor Sojourner Truth.
Iwo Jima flag boys? not there.
Twin Towers first defenders? not there.
My children are thank God not there
any more or less than you and I are not there.
I safe screen-watch. A youth
young in his uniform
signals his guard squad
twice: OK go, to the tanks
and the cameramen: OK go.
The tank takes the house wall.
The house genuflects. The tank proceeds.
The house kneels. The roof dives.
The woman howls. Dust rises.
They cut to the next shot.
The young men and the woman
breathe the dust of the house
which now is its prayer.
A dust cloud rises, at one
with the prayer of all the kneeling houses
asking to be answered
and answerable anywhere.
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