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Ruth Ellen Kocher

Ruth Ellen Kocher was born and raised in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She received a BA from Pennsylvania State University and an MFA and a PhD from Arizona State University.

Kocher is the author of several poetry collections, including Third Voice (Tupelo Press, 2016); Ending in Planes (Noemi Press, 2014); domina Un/blued (Tupelo Press, 2013), winner of the PEN Open Book Award and the Dorset Prize; and Desdemona’s Fire (Lotus Press, 1999), winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Award for African American Poets.

Of her work, Bruce Weigl writes, “At the heart of these stunning poems is a precise and imaginative examination of the thin line that separates beauty and terror, wisdom and madness, tolerance and hatred.”

Kocher has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, Yaddo, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a professor of English at the University of Colorado–Boulder, where she also serves as the associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences and the divisional dean for the arts and humanities. She lives in Colorado.


Bibliography

Third Voice (Tupelo Press, 2016)
Ending in Planes (Noemi Press, 2014)
Goodbye Lyric: The Gigans and Lovely Gun (Sheep Meadow Press, 2014)
domina Un/blued (Tupelo Press, 2013)
One Girl Babylon (New Issues Press, 2003)
When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering (New Issues Press, 2002)
Desdemona’s Fire (Lotus Press, 1999)

By This Poet

4

He Dreams of Falling

At the table in patio seating, 
a young man starched into my evening 
in waiter black and white-- 
he's probably named John, Tom, 
something less spectacular than the busboy 
named Ari at the table beside me. 
He is a boy I've seen and I hide that from him, 
a silence he doesn't understand as he turns away
not remembering that a week ago while waiting for a bus 
I saw him step over the legs of an old
homeless woman
sprawled on the sidewalk. His foot 
not clearing her arm, caught, 
so that he jerked her body 
while a consciousness 
almost found her but didn't, 
just stirred somewhere below her face. 
In the spiral where he turned he glanced 
not at the woman but to see who'd seen. 
He saw me watching him, jack-lighted and drawn 
into the warm ceremony that fell through him. 
I understood this explosion, 
the burn from the beginning, 
there when a bus passes, or a waiter 
quietly puts down your check.
He could be my brother, 
have parents at home in Ohio where there is a small lie 
buried in a garden with snow peas and basil. 
There may be another breaking the soil, 
dogs who bark into the woods, 
constellations who see our freeways as spines-- 
or he may miss a warm climate, 
groves of oranges measuring the circular 
scent of weight each time a heavy fruit falls. 
He may know that secretly 
the hearts of children conspire to stop 
when parents close their bedroom doors. 
But in this construction, 
the pace that takes him back and forth 
in the servitude of strangers,
he has forgotten, again, to feel for me, 
eating alone, a woman familiar 
deep in the eyes, 
with his same knowledge of movement 
that bends us forward, 
the instinct of our heels 
ready to turn against that jerk a body makes 
even in dead sleep, 
the stir that is less than we ask for, 
less than an old woman, 
or a woman growing old.

Forms of Range and Loathing


typical of an arid country among hundreds of other flora

you find half a province of avalanches 





parts are desert





I might say light defeated by a dark thing that strips

mountain and bullet 





		         no





the mountains have forgotten airborne

you would never say howl

never say mountain





or region or enemy

you say men’s mouths  are the woods’ black holes





I’m thinking The guy on TV didn’t seem upset about

killing his wife If he’d done so but he didn’t he says





nothing about him if not after an interview

tuft bodies of red wings scatter the lawns 





did you hear 

birds out of sky

some dead wind





he didn’t seem upset and so may as well

have killed his wife

a jury says





If you could hear me now I’m not sure how important

it might seem In another language





Hope is not too much or that a random crime

might mean We share something

Skit: Sun Ra Welcomes the Fallen

Jupiter means anger. Sun Ra does not. Sun Ra dances the Cake Walk on Saturn’s pulpy eyes. If you believe that, I’ll tell you another one. The first is 13 and the next is 20. They were not good boys but they were boys. They were boys who died for this thing or that. The next was 16 and the last was 18. One had a cell phone. One had a gun. On earth, a goose opens its chest to a sound. The goose takes the bullet this way.  A sacrifice denied to the wind since there is no such thing as sacrifice anymore having succumbed to fever and the millennium. The bullet is all consequence. Sun Ra refuses red—long and high, low and deep. His arms are long enough to embrace them.