POETRY

Ode to a Porcupine

By

The stench
knocks you back—
stronger than skunk, a putrid
blood-smell, like ten thousand Kotex
left in a damp campground bathroom.

It’s lain a week in the rain
among gaudy Adirondack Great
Camps built by a remnant of European
Jewry on ancestral Abenaki land
in the twilight of American empire . . .

Endless war—
Babylon to Wounded Knee,
Hun invasions to Afghanistan:
if one small mammal stinks this bad,
what must a battlefield be? Li Bai says,

      Crows and hawks peck for human guts . . .
      hang them on branches of withered trees . . .
      soldiers are smeared on bushes and grass;
      the generals schemed in vain . . .
      Know that the weapons of war are utterly useless;
      the wise man uses them only if he must.

Poor quill pig,
we’ll bury you beneath the pines
where you lived and died, a Taoist,
not releasing a single needle
unless attacked.

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.

Poor quill pig,
we’ll bury you beneath the pines
where you lived and died, a Taoist,
not releasing a single needle
unless attacked.