Happy Birthday, Universe!

We’re having conniptions
here on Earth. We who flicker
like moths take it upon
ourselves to praise Eternity,

squabbling over what to call it,
burning the others’ metaphors, burning
each other. As if we won’t be gone
fast enough. What could you
possibly think of us, Universe,

in our zany hats? If
you could even see them
on our minuscule heads.
What of our noisy games?
(We’d burn you, too, if we could.)

We like to party.
We like to fight.
We like to circle
around & around & around
your killer light.

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BARBARA UNGAR’s new collection of poetry, Save Our Ship, was chosen by Mark Jarman for the Richard Snyder Memorial Prize and is forthcoming from Ashland Poetry Press in November 2019. Her last book, Immortal Medusa (The Word Works, 2015), won the Adirondack Center for Writing Poetry Award and was one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Indie Books of the year; their starred review begins, “Ungar’s new collection may not make her immortal, but it surely establishes her as a contemporary poet of the first rank.” Prior books include Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life, selected by Denise Duhamel for the Hilary Tham Collection (The Word Works, 2011); Thrift (Word Tech, 2005); and The Origin of the Milky Way (Gival Press, 2007), which won the Gival Prize, a silver Independent Publishers medal, and and several other awards. She has published in the Southern Indiana Review, Rattle, Salmagundi, Minnesota Review, cream city review, Literary Review, and many other journals. She has read widely, including at the Dodge Poetry Festival, Poets House, and Academy of American Poets. Her work-in-progress, EDGE, an acronymn for the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered list, confronts the sixth extinction. www.barbaraungar.net

17 responses to “Rosh Hashanah 5771”

  1. Irene Zion says:



  2. Barbara Ungar says:

    Thanks, Irene.

  3. Uche Ogbuji says:

    I like how the ending is like the vision of the center of a spiral galaxy.

  4. Barbara Ungar says:

    Thanks, Uche. Did anyone else see the article in today’s Times about the two giant bubbles of energy erupting from the center of the Milky Way–and no one knows what they are? Except that they are not dark matter, and contain the energy equivalent to 100,000 supernova explosions. The source of the bubbles is a mystery, and they are almost as big as our galaxy itself. Wow!

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Nice poem, Barbara.

      And yes, I saw that article. I also clicked through to the journal article linked to in the NYT article. I’m not an astronomer but I very much enjoyed looking at the many maps of the energy bubbles. It’s fascinating to see the raw (well, more raw than the beautiful NYT image) data.

  5. Barbara Ungar says:

    Thanks, Don. I just love this stuff. Physics for poets!

  6. I just love this, Barbara — so beautiful and full of movement — I can’t wait for Charlotte Bronte!!

  7. Barbara Ungar says:

    Thanks, Robin. You know this won’t be in Charlotte Brontë (but the earlier one, “Rosemary’s Divorce,” will). This will go in the next book, current working title: Does Anyone Know A Spell To Become A Mermaid that Really Works?

  8. Barbara Ungar says:

    To Uche: Physics IS for poets! Amen.

  9. Gareth says:

    Physics is just how we live, poetry is a reason.

  10. Gareth says:

    “[we] take it upon
    ourselves to praise Eternity,

    squabbling over what to call it”

    A neat demolition of organised religion.

  11. Barbara Ungar says:

    Thanks, Gareth. I must admit that [we] “take it upon ourselves to praise Eternity” is from Leopardi . . . I don’t mind organized religion so much, but fighting about it is beyond ridiculous. I love the end of Philip Roth’s “The Conversion of the Jews” where the young Jewish boy makes everyone get down on their knees and pray, and then promise never to “hit anyone about God.”

    • Gareth says:

      Marcus Aurelius’ stance on god/s is the only one that has every made sense to me … well, him and the two goldfish.

      I had not read the Roth … which I shall remedy as soon as possible … that’s great.

      Regarding poetry and physics, you might be interested in something I found on an entirely unrelated web-search: http://www.sbfonline.com/Documents/poetry.pdf

  12. Barbara Ungar says:

    Anyone who starts off with Emily Dickinson can’t be bad. Thanks for that link; could be useful for teaching. Now where would I find those two goldfish?

  13. Gareth says:

    The two goldfish cartoon had a profound effect on me when I first saw it 42/43 years ago. My own little road-to-Damascus-in-reverse.

    Two goldfish in a little bowl. One is saying to the other: “Well, if there’s no God, who changes the water?”

    I realised that a human could could no more visualise God than a goldfish could visualise a human … so what was the point in even trying? Everything I was being told at church and Sunday school just stopped making sense at that moment … and it’s never made sense since.

    Evangelist preachers keep telling us “I talked with God this morning” … seriously, what could we have in common?

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