by Marie Ponsot


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A “delightful” (Poetry), celebratory volume of late-life poems from the award-winning octogenarian Marie Ponsot.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375711879
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/17/2011
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

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.

Read an Excerpt


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,

untypical, uninfinite.

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.

—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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