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, O 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.

Originally appeared in the June 1957 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).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, The Spiritual, Arts & Sciences, Music, Poetry & Poets, Reading & Books

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.