By Marie Ponsot
I don’t know what to say to you, neighbor,
as you shovel snow from your part of our street
neat in your Greek black. I’ve waited for
chance to find words; now, by chance, we meet.
We took our boys to the same kindergarten,
thirteen years ago when our husbands went.
Both boys hated school, dropped out feral, dropped in
to separate troubles. You shift snow fast, back bent,
but your boy killed himself, six days dead.
My boy washed your wall when the police were done.
He says, “We weren’t friends?” and shakes his head,
“I told him it was great he had that gun,”
and shakes. I shake, close to you, close to you.
You have a path to clear, and so you do.
“Winter” from The Bird Catcher by Marie Ponsot, 1998 by Marie Ponsot. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Penguin Random House LLC for permission.
Source: The Bird Catcher (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998)
Poet and translator Marie Ponsot was born in New York, and taught at New York University and Columbia University. Her first book, True Minds, was published in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights series in 1956. The book went unnoticed, and she did not publish another volume for decades, focusing instead on her career as a translator. Her three subsequent books of poetry won several awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her poems are both verbally complex and extremely formal, embracing such difficult forms as the sestina and the villanelle, as they engage with intelligence and drama the occurrences of everyday life.
More By This Poet
Old Mama Saturday
“I’m moving from Grief Street.
Taxes are high here
though the mortgage’s cheap.
The house is well built.
With stuff to protect, that
mattered to me,
These things that I mind,
you know, aren’t mine.
I mind minding them.
They weigh on my mind.
I don’t mind them well.
More Poems about Living
Vagrants and Loiterers
You got that clean waistcoat,
the bright white of a well-tailored
shirt, you got those loose-as-sacks
slacks and some spit-polished shoes,
and you know, whether you are looking
like money, or about to take a stroll,
to tilt that hat like you own
the world; yeah, smoke...
What Women Are Made Of
We are all ventricle, spine, lung, larynx, and gut.
Clavicle and nape, what lies forked in an open palm;
we are follicle and temple. We are ankle, arch,
sole. Pore and rib, pelvis and root
and tongue. We are wishbone and gland and molar
More Poems about Relationships
Back Up Quick They’re Hippies
That was the year we drove
into the commune in Cornwall.
“Jesus Jim,” mam said,
“back up quick they’re hippies.”
Through the car window,
tents, row after row, flaps open,
long-haired men and women
curled around each other like babies
and the babies themselves
wandered naked across the grass.
In the warmth of night I put feet to my plan: waited
for my brothers to sleep. They’d spent the day
sharpening their hooks, repairing the great net,
filling gourds with fresh water. They’d bundled
taro wrapped in leaves sitting below the cross seats.