My agoraphobia is growing, along with
enochlophobia, fear of crowds or mobs.
I’ve got gerascophobia, fear of growing old,
and rhytiphobia, fear of wrinkles, though
I’m getting used to them. After two divorces,
I admit to gamophobia, fear of marriage,
and liticaphobia, fear of lawsuits.
androphobia—so many names for fear
of men—seems only natural for a woman,
along with virginitiphobia, fear of rape;
as well as hoplophobia, fear of firearms;
atomosophobia, fear of atomic explosions;
and nucleomituphobia, fear of nuclear weapons.
Doesn’t everyone have those? I was born
with xerophobia, fear of dryness, preferring
water nearby. The drought out West terrifies.
My thermophobia, fear of heat, is soaring
with the thermometer. So’s my politicophobia,
fear and hatred of politicians. Like any poet, I suffer
from atelophobia, fear of imperfection, and athaz-
agoraphobia, fear of being forgotten or ignored.
your cruising life will be one of terror
get another spouse
or give up your dream
all over the world are women looking for skippers
and skippers looking for women
the keel can fall off
abandoning ship do not waste time
on your wedding ring look around
remember safety is a state of mind
most men found floating
face down in the sea
had their flies open
learning celestial navigation
what should you watch for
read the stars wind waves
red at night
a coconut waits on every tree
be safe and have fun
stroke is such an apt name isn’t it
you lose a little control
why all this fuss
many are bolts from the blue
finally you will bless the day
sometimes drinking helps
a cruiser is a vagabond
at one with sea and sky and stars
are you ready to cast off
for that great adventure
death follows rapidly
halos may appear
I’m watching The Birds
for comfort. Bodega Bay
rocks me back to childhood,
the simple boats and cars,
the rural coast. In DuMaurier’s tale,
there’s no love story, just a lone
man’s existential last stand.
Hitchcock gives us hope: the silver
car threading its way down the bird-
infested California coast, with God-
lighting slanting through the clouds.
In reality, Hitch kept trying
to force his bulk on Tippi.
Rebuffed, he hurled live birds
at her for a week to film
the Don’t-go-up-the-stairs scene.
When she asked why her character
would do something so mad, he said,
Because I told you to. He wrecked
her career. Made her immortal.
Hitch had visited Monterey Bay:
thousands of sooty shearwaters
really did run amok, crashing
into cars and windows, vomiting
anchovies poisoned by toxic algae.
But fuck reality, back to the movie:
How come no one ever thinks to put on
a helmet, gloves, goggles, or even
a soup pot over their head? Crawl
under the bed and pad yourself
with pillows. Get a broom or bat
and whirl like a dervish. No, they just
wait in fetching attitudes, faces and legs
exposed to the predatory beaks.
I never look at the farmer’s pecked-out
sockets. Once as a child was enough—
I know just when to shut my eyes.
These mussels had secrets that we’ll never know:
the flat pigtoe upland combshell stirrupshell & Southern acornshell
pearly mussels: green-blossom tubercled-blossom turgid-blossom & yellow-blossom
done in by dams. By us & rats & mosquitoes
11 birds, mostly Hawaiian— the Kauai akialoa, nukupu’u, O’o and large Kauai thrush, the Maui akepa & nunupu’u, the Molokai creeper & Po’ouli—
the bridled white-eye bird, ivory-billed woodpecker & Bachman’s warbler.
11 birds, 8 mussels, 2 fish & 1 bat, the Little Mariana fruit bat.
We don’t fully understand what we lost.
While the bombs rain on Ukraine why do I mourn these small shapes by most of us unseen silently filtering streams or pollinating blossoms?
Their lost songs and ingenious forms will never again grace air or water. They were our little sisters and brothers whether we ever met or called their names.
Barbara Ungar’s sixth book, After Naming the Animals, is forthcoming summer 2023 from The Word Works. Other poems from this collection appeared recently in Scientific American, Crazyhorse, Psaltery and Lyre, Atticus Review, and Small Orange. A professor of English at The College of Saint Rose, she lives in Saratoga Springs, New York. www.barbaraungar.net