POETRY

Becoming My Father's Mother

By

How the dead live on in us,
how we learn they do not die—
how their photographs possess their souls
as if they still breathed.

How we see they do not die:
closer now, telescoped within,
as if they breathed still,
they stream, all ages at once . . .

Even closer now, telescoped within,
you love your daddy best
(though he’s all ages at once)
in sepia knickers, white shirt shining.

You love your daddy best
around the age your son is now,
in sepia knickers & shining white shirt—
his sweet smile, his eyes luminous.

Around the age your son is now—
you could be his doting mama—
(his wounded smile and wary eyes)
the one he never had.

You can be the doting mama,
(how his photographs possess you)
the one you never had.
How the dead live on in us.

Barbara Louise Ungar is the author of three full-length poetry collections, Thrift; Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life; and The Origin of the Milky Way, which won the Gival Press Poetry Award, an Independent Publisher’s Award, the Adirondack Center for Writing Poetry Award, and an Eric Hoffer Award. She is also the author of Haiku in English and several chapbooks. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals, including Rattle, Salmagundi, Talking River, The Minnesota Review, Cream City Review, Literary Review, Global City Review, Dominion Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Atticus Review, and The Nervous Breakdown. An essay is forthcoming in Rattle’s tribute to single-parent poets issue this fall. She has performed widely, including at the Dodge Poetry Festival, the Poetry Society of America, Poets’ House, St. Mark’s Poetry Project, Nuyorican Poets’ Café, Center for Book Arts, and Cornelia St. Café. A professor of English at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, she teaches in its new MFA program.

How the dead live on in us,
how we learn they do not die—
how their photographs possess their souls
as if they still breathed.