A Visit

By Marie Ponsot b. 1921 Marie Ponsot

Fine bitches all, and Molly Dance   ...
               — Djuna Barnes

Come for duty’s sake (as girls do) we watch
The sly very old woman wile away from her pious
And stagger-blind friend, their daily split of gin.
She pours big drinks. We think of what
Has crumpled, folded, slumped her flesh in
And muddied her once tumbling blood that, young,
Sped her, threaded with brave power: a Tower,
Now Babel, then of  ivory, of  the Shulamite,
Collapsed to this keen dame moving among
Herself. She hums, she plays with used bright
Ghosts, makes real dolls, and drinking sings Come here
My child, and feel it, dear. A crooking finger
Shows how hot the oven is.

(Also she is alive with hate.
Also she is afraid of  hell. Also, we wish
We might, illiberal, uncompassionate,
Run from her smell, her teeth in the dish.)

Even dying, her life riots in her. We stand stock still
Though aswarm with itches under her disreputable smiles.
We manage to mean well. We endure, and more.
We learn time’s pleasure, catch our future and its cure.
We’re dear blood daughters to this every hag, and near kin
To any after this of  those our mirrors tell us foolishly envy us,
Presuming us, who are young, to be beautiful, kind, and sure.

Originally appeared in the March 1958 issue of Poetry magazine.

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).

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

May 2013
 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 Living, Death, Growing Old, The Body, Time & Brevity, Youth, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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