Marie Ponsot

Winner of the 2002 Shelley Memorial Award

Two Questions

for E. Coleman, L. Ferlinghetti, E. Fontinell, G. Mally, D. Yezzo, All Men of Good Will and Sometime Armed Forces


in such windrush he
can't scream
he's moving too
fast in the pitchblack
falling his
parachute hot buckles & charred string

he is on fire he hits salt
water, goes out     as he
goes under. It chokes with
him in his throat,
that shout.

Fire, the flare human, the
body of burning plunging,
shot star sea-quenched:
...fifty years on fire in my mind.

Second hand. Dreamed, dreamed,
a silence of scream, heat
into cold, extinguishing.
Waked by, wept for, guessed at,
an ignorant dream, dreaming those
who flew to kill again toward gunfire
flew killed flew killed flew    But he
burned, that boy, my age. Lt. Little,
prayed for in my parish monthly thirty years
till his mother died; who else would remember?
His lovers at then twenty-one
have long loved others. Only those
who made him up out of anguish
ignorant among war news remember
what the order of murder made.


Wasp & osprey flee our ring of discord
but now & then— as if some beast were fat
& we winter-struck with hunger—
we close in on it flourishing weaponry
and war makes meat of some.

In their poor young butchers
otherwise virtuous     it taints memory
with ownerless bitterness.

Our catch-basin cities swirl with blood
until—some larder stocked—we stop
come home    wash up     and restore
peace as if there were no war.

If slaughter always alters our memory
if brutal mistakes are fatal so far
& if I—no Amazon, no Lysistrata— agree
no life is free of brute fatality

what is a safe childhood for?

of what is war the history?

"Two Questions" by Marie Ponsot. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.


Sandra M. Gilbert on Marie Ponsot

Marie Ponsot is a poet of exuberance, eloquence, and elegance. Moving from the dazzlingly colloquial to the gravely lyrical, her most recent works celebrate the mysteries of time, age, growth, and transformation that constitute what she terms "the last wilderness," a new country in which simply to be is to explore. That (again, in her own words) "joy may come, and make its test of us" is one of her central tenets, an axiom that infuses her beautifully ripened verse with a special, honeyed intensity. It is an extraordinary pleasure to offer a prize to a poet who so wonderfully dramatizes what she herself clearly believes is the endless delight-- the deliciousness!— of language.

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