Pre-Text

By Marie Ponsot b. 1921 Marie Ponsot

(for Douglas, at one)

Archaic, his gestures
hieratic, just like Caesar or Sappho
or Mary’s Jesus or Ann’s Mary or Jane   
Austen once, or me or your mother’s you

the sudden baby surges to his feet   
and sways, head forward, chin high,   
arms akimbo, hands dangling idle,   
elbows up, as if winged.

The features of his face stand out   
amazed, all eyes as his aped posture   
sustains him aloft
                        a step a step a rush   
and he walks,

Young Anyone, his lifted point of view   
far beyond the calendar.

What time is it? Firm in time   
he is out of date—

like a cellarer for altar wines   
tasting many summers in one glass,

or like a grandmother
in whose womb her
granddaughter once
slept in egg inside
grandma’s unborn daughter’s   
folded ovaries.

Marie Ponsot, “Pre-Text” from The Bird Catcher. Copyright © 1998 by Marie Ponsot. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: The Bird Catcher (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998)

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Poet Marie Ponsot b. 1921

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Time & Brevity, Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Living, Youth, Parenthood

Holidays Mother's Day

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Marie  Ponsot

Biography

Born in New York, poet and translator Marie Ponsot is the daughter of a teacher and a wine importer and was raised Catholic, a faith she still observes. She earned a BA at St. Joseph’s College for Women in Brooklyn, New York, and an MA in 17th-century literature at Columbia University. On a ship to Paris after World War II, she met poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who later published Ponsot’s debut collection through . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Family & Ancestors, Relationships, Living, Youth, Parenthood

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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