Analysis of “One is One” by Marie Ponsot
In the context of human experience, there are few emotions which evoke such a sensation of bitter irony as forbidden love, especially among individuals on opposite sides of the law. In her poem “One is One”, author Marie Ponsot constructs a style of reflective monologue from the perspective of a jailer who is seemingly addressing an inmate with which he or she has had some form of relationship in the past. Ponsot establishes this relationship between the jailer and the inmate to demonstrate the contrasting power balances of dominance and vulnerability which witnessed in the traditional form of power which the jailer exercises over the inmate as the gatekeeper of the prison and the tone of the language used by the guard to emphasize a sense of emotional vulnerability the guard experiences as a contrast to his or her supposed dominant role In the relationship. One of the most prominent lines in Ponsot’s poem that illustrates this contrasting power dynamic is “Jailers are prisoners’ prisoners too” which demonstrates how the emotional vunerability experienced by the guard renders him or her a figurative prisoner of the inmate through his or her emotional attachment to the relationship.
One example of how the line “Jailers are prisoners’ prisoners too” illustrates the contrast between power and vulnerability in the relationship between the jailer and the guard is evident in the very first line of the poem, which reads “Heart, you bully, you punk, I’m wrecked, I’m shocked stiff” The first word “heart” serves to illustrate the emotional attachment the guard has experienced in the relationship with the unnamed inmate, and the following words “you bully” and “I’m wrecked” seem to demonstrate that the jailer is suffering from emotional distress caused by some form of transgression committed by the inmate. The following two lines “I’ve got you, identified, starving, locked/ in a cage you won’t leave alive” evoke the contrast in the power dynamic between the jailer and guard by shifting from the emotional vulnerability in the first line to illustrate the power the guard exercises over the inmate’s life and liberty as the gatekeeper of the “cage”.
Another example which illustrates how “jailers are Prisoners’ prisoners too” represents the contrast between power and vulnerability that is represented in the dynamic between the institutional power of the guard and the emotional vulnerability he or she experiences in the context of the relationship with the inmate can be witnessed in the line “your greed to go solo” which demonstrates the guard’s perception of the inmate’s inability or unwillingness to commit to a relationship as “greed” In addition, the line “make us one” illustrates the guard’s desire to achieve a form of union with the inmate if he or she “reforms” and which can be considered as a veiled reference to marriage.
In summary, Ponsot’s poem serves to illustrate the contrasting power dynamics between authority and vulnerability through the example of a jailer who, while maintaining institutional power over the life of the inmate, is still a “prisoner” of the inmate due to his or her emotional vulnerability in the context of the relationship.
Ponsot, Marie. “One is One” The Birdcatcher.