Barbara Ungar – Call Me Medusa



Some years ago, when I had braces
and headgear, I’d pull my hair
through the openings in the cap
contraption so as not to flatten
the curls. Hence my nickname.
I just gave them a sullen stare.

You’ll be glad when you’re older, they said.
Beauty always a thorn. My two sisters
share my snaky locks and stony looks.
(The girls in our family all come in threes:
our cousins the Grays, the Graces, the Norns.)
Always an oldest, a youngest, a beauty.

I was none. I was a brain, eyes and hair.
If not a beauty, are you then a monster?
Some say I was beautiful, raped, punished
for it, then beheaded in a rear-view mirror.
Even cut off, my head could still turn men
to stone. Even decapitated, my corpse

could still give birth to a winged horse.
The blood from my severed neck
could turn seaweed to coral and sprinkle
the desert with vipers, amphisbaena,
snakes that swallow their own tails eternally.
Even Eden depends on me.

From Immortal Medusa (Word Works, 2015)
Also published in the anthology Feminine Rising: Voices of Power & Invisibility (Cynren Press, 2019) – a collection of poetry and essays from 70 women in 12 nations and every corner of the US – co-curated by Andrea Fekete and Lara Lillibridge –

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Barbara Ungar
Barbara Ungar’s fifth book, "Save Our Ship", winner of the Richard Snyder Memorial Prize from Ashland Poetry Press, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2019 and won a Benjamin Franklin award in the Independent Book Publishers Awards. Prior books include "Immortal Medusa", named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015; "Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life"; "Thrift"; and "The Origin of the Milky Way", which won the Gival Prize and a silver medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. A professor at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, she lives in Saratoga Springs.