Barbara Ungar

How It Happens

Maybe it starts with cheating—he says you drove him to it. Maybe you yell & hit him thinking you can’t hurt him till he hits back. Maybe his hands around your neck you see crimson you’re choking him back & if there were a gun someone could be dead. Maybe he throws you across the room somehow you’re out on the street running sniveling everyone steers clear. Maybe you call someone. Maybe he says it’s safe to come home it will never happen again. Maybe he’s sorry fills the house with a hundred roses.

Maybe it never happens again.
Maybe it does.

Or maybe he would never cheat. Maybe he doesn’t talk for hours that turn into days. Maybe he won’t let you sleep or the baby nap. Maybe drives drunk won’t stop the car when you need to. Calls you crazy accuses you of cheating parks his car behind yours so you can’t get out. Maybe he wakes you up for sex & you do it dreaming of sleep. Maybe he throws the bottle at you & punches a hole in the wall. You need a plan. Maybe you throw up breakfast for a week. Take the baby & run.

There are so many ways it can happen.
It happens all the time.


Ars Poetica

I love to comb
a poem the way
girls do their dolls’
hair singing

as I brushed
and braided mane
and tail curried
every inch

of the pony
I owned only
in words and rode
naked through town


Barbara Ungar’s fifth book, Save Our Ship, won the Richard Snyder Memorial Prize and is forthcoming from Ashland Poetry Press in September 2019. Her fourth, Immortal Medusa, was one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Indie Poetry Books of 2015. Prior books are Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life; Thrift; and The Origin of the Milky Way, which won the Gival Prize, a silver Independent Publishers award, and a Hoffer award. A professor at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, Barbara lives in Saratoga Springs.