The longest day of the year.
He sits dignified as Geronimo’s last portrait,
though we found him with pants on the floor,
diaper around his ankles.
We have Beckett conversations:
Are you a lion or a gorilla?
I’m your daughter.
When did they let you out of jail?
What have you got in your hand, Dad?
He peers into his empty palm.
I’ll see you tomorrow, Dad.
There are a lot of tomorrows.
Tomorrow and . . .
Once, with blue lucidity, I’ll miss you.
A new woman storms the halls, imploring,
Do you know where the door is?
Can you let me out?
I leave, take my boy to the zoo,
full of fat Minnesotans with too many kids.
The polar bears’ concrete lair is hot.
The male, piss-stain yellow, huge beyond
belief, rears to ram his head repeatedly
up against the steel door handle—
The Talmud lists three keys
in the hands of G-d
not entrusted to any messenger:
the key to rain,
the key to childbirth,
the key to death.
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.