The time of birds died sometime between When Robert Kennedy, Jr. disappeared and the Berlin Wall came down. Hope was pro forma then. We’d begun to talk about shelf-life. Parents Thought they’d gotten somewhere. I can’t tell you What to make of this now without also saying that when I was 19 and read in a poem that the pure products of America go crazy I felt betrayed. My father told me not to whistle because I Was a girl. He gave me my first knife and said to keep it in my right Hand and to keep my right hand in my right pocket when I walked at night. He showed me the proper kind of fist and the sweet spot on the jaw To leverage my shorter height and upper-cut someone down. There were probably birds on the long walk home but I don’t Remember them because pastoral is not meant for someone With a fist in each pocket waiting for a reason.
Copyright © 2018 by Ruth Ellen Kocher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.