Leave it to the graceful Marie Ponsot, now in her late eighties, to view her life in poetry as easeful. As she tells us, pondering what stones can hear, “Between silence and sound / we are balancing darkness, / making light of it.” In this celebratory collection, Ponsot makes light, in both senses, of all she touches, and her pleasure in offering these late poems is infectious. After more than a half century at her craft, she describes her poetic preferences unpretentiously thus: “no fruity phrases, just unspun / words trued right toward a nice / idea, for chaser. Trues a risk. / Take it I say. Do true for fun.”
Ponsot is accepting of what has come, whether its a joyous memory of her second-grade teacher in a New York public school or the feeling of being “Orphaned Old,” less lucky in life since her parents died. She holds herself to the highest standard: to see clearly, to think, to deal openhandedly and openheartedly with the world, to “Go to a wedding / as to a funeral: / bury the loss” and also to “Go to a funeral / as to a wedding: / marry the loss.” She confides that she meets works of great art “expectant and thirsty.”
Indeed, Ponsots thirst for life and its best expression, for the sprightly phrase and the deeper understanding running beneath, makes this book a transformative experience. The wisdom and music of Easy, like all of Ponsots poetry, will remain with her readers for decades to come.
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.