Private and Profane

By Marie Ponsot b. 1921 Marie Ponsot
From loss of the old and lack of the new
From failure to make the right thing do
Save us, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.
     From words not the word, from a feckless voice
     From poetic distress and from careless choice
     Exclude our intellects, James Joyce.
From genteel angels and apostles unappalled
From hollywood visions as virgins shawled
Guard our seeing, Grünewald.
     From calling a kettle an existential pot,
     From bodying the ghost of whatever is not,
     John save us, 0 most subtle Scot.
From pace without cadence, from pleasures slip-shod
From eating the pease and rejecting the pod
Wolfgang keep us, lover of God.
     Couperin come with your duple measure
     Alter our minds against banal pleasure.
Dürer direct with strictness our vision
Steady this flesh toward your made precision.
     Mistress of accurate minor pain,
     Lend wit for forbearance, prideless Jane.
From pretending to own what we secretly seek,
From (untimely, discourteous) the turned other cheek,
Protect our honor, Demetrius the Greek.
     From ignorance of structural line and bone
     From passion not pointed on truth alone
     Attract us, painters on Egyptian stone.
     From despair keep us, Aquin’s dumb son;
     From despair keep us, Saint Welcome One;
     From lack of despair keep us, Djuna and John Donne.
That zeal for free will get us in deep,
That the chance to choose be the one we keep
That free will steel self in us against self-defense
That free will repeal in us our last pretense
That free will heal us
     Jeanne d’Arc, Job, Johnnie Skelton,
     Jehan de Beauce, composer Johann,
     Dark John Milton, Charter Oak John,
Strike deep, divide us from cheap-got doubt,
Leap, leap between us and the easy out;
Teach us to seize, to use, to sleep well, to let go;
Let our loves, freed in us, gaudy and graceful, grow.

June 1957

Source: Poetry (October 2012).

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This poem originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

October 2012
 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 Arts & Sciences, Music, Painting & Sculpture, Reading & Books

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Couplet

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