Published on Academy of American Poets (

We May No Longer Consider the End

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.

About this Poem

“I’m working on a prose book called Notes on Whiteness that recalls my experiences growing up as a black girl in a working-class white family. I’ve been trying to articulate how my white father understood my anger and helped me to weaponize it as a way to survive a world he knew was cruel to me. He knew what I’d be up against. He wanted to raise ‘a young lady’ but also wanted to make sure I could fight and win.”
—Ruth Ellen Kocher


Ruth Ellen Kocher

Ruth Ellen Kocher is the author of several poetry collections, including Third Voice (Tupelo Press, 2016), Ending in Planes (Noemi Press, 2014), and Goodbye Lyric: The Gigans and Lovely Gun (Sheep Meadow Press, 2014). She lives in Colorado.

Date Published: 2018-10-19

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