Marie Ponsot in Bryant Park, New York City  April 6, 1921 — July 5, 2019  photo courtesy of Josh Mizrahi

Marie Ponsot in Bryant Park, New York City

April 6, 1921 — July 5, 2019

photo courtesy of Josh Mizrahi

Marie Ponsot was an American poetliterary criticessayist, teacher, and translator. Her awards and honors included the National Book Critics Circle Award, Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, the Robert Frost Poetry Award, the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry.

In her honor, Presence published a Life's Work essay in the inaugural issue of 2017, written by Susan L. Miller, for whom Ponsot had been a beloved teacher and mentor.

Dancing Day II

 

Once, one made many.

Now, many make one.

The rest is requiem.

We're running out of time, so

we're hurrying home to

practice to

gether for the general dance.

We're past get-ready, almost at get-set.

Here we come many to

dance as one.

 

Plenty more lost selves keep arriving, some

we weren't waiting for. We stretch and

lace up practice shoes. We mind our manners—

no staring, just snatching a look

            —strict and summative—

at each other's feet & gait & port.

 

Every one we ever were shows up

with world-flung poor triumphs

flat in the backpacks we set down to greet

each other. Glad tired gaudy

we are more than we thought

& as ready as we'll ever be.

 

We've all learned the moves, separately,

 

from the absolute dancer

         the foregone deep breather

the original choreographer.

 

Imitation's limitation—but who cares.

We'll be at our best on dancing day.

                                    On dancing day

we'll belt out tunes we'll step to

together

till it's time for us to say

there's nothing more to say

            nothing to pay       no way

            pay no mind     pay no heed

            pay as we go.

Many is one; we're out of here,

exeunt omnes,

            exit       oh and save

            this last dance for me

 

on the darkening ground

looking up into

the last hour of left light

in the star-struck east,

its vanishing flective, bent

breathlessly.

from Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016)