Pathetic Fallacies Are Bad Science But

By Marie Ponsot b. 1921 Marie Ponsot

On reading Susanne K. Langer’s Mind

If  leaf-trash chokes the stream-bed,
reach for rock-bottom as you rake
the muck out. Let it slump dank,
and dry fading, flat above the bank.
Stand back. Watch the water vault ahead.
Its thrust sweeps the surface clean, shores the debris,
as it debrides its stone path to the lake,
clarity carrying clarity.

To see clear, resist the drag of  images.
Take nature as it is, not Dame nor Kind.
Act in events; touch what you name. Abhor
easy obverts of natural metaphor.
Let human speech breathe out its best poor bridges
from mind to world, mind to self, mind to mind.

Yet, I admit the event of the wood thrush:
     In a footnote Langer (her book rapids-clean
     like the spring-water aired over sleeked rock)
     says she witnessed an August bird in shock
     when a hawk snatched its mate. It perched, rushed
     notes fluting two life-quotas in one flood,
     its lungs pushing its voice, flushing the keen
     calls, pumped out as the heart pumps blood,
     not in twilight or warning but noon & wrong,
     its old notes whistled too fast but accurate.

I read this drenched in bird-panic, its spine-
fusing loss all song, all loss; that loss mine
awash in unanswered unanswered song.
And I cannot claim we are not desolate.

From Springing: New and Selected Poems by Marie Ponsot, copyright © 2002 by Marie Ponsot. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Random House, Inc. for permission.

Source: Poetry (May 2013).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2013
 Marie  Ponsot


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 Living, Sorrow & Grieving, The Mind, Nature, Animals, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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