Ruth Ellen Kocher

Ruth Ellen Kocher

When Zeus Swallowed Metis

As was the case with Adam, my knowledge rifled him.
My breast rose above the mountains each morning,

turned from frost blue into a bright glint of sun. My fingers
reached from Kos to the Appalachians. In all things, my breath
made him small. In the end, I tasted of walnut and cardamom.
My flesh, smooth as a calf, vealed. My daughter slept in me
not unlike a moth in a chrysalis, filled with fight and turning.
Now, trees mourn,

ripen around seeds swallowed as a serpent
would surround small prey. Do you understand why you forget me—
the heavy birth of autumn usual in its duplicity,
its coming and going, dull loss, though

then, the girl's bursting forth, epiphany of form,
his head, rib, torn.


—for Lee Krasner, wife of Jackson Pollock

Far away, your canvas not blank but not there:
beige largeness closer but more and more movement.
You paint green slate black blue sand neutral—not his Sounds in the Grass,
not his Composition, really, but memory,
or the imagining of you as who you become as though the ahead
could be witness to this demise of your own
going forward, un-stricken. The installation of a world's collapse
pebbled as if the painted sand evolved into boulder or the boulder's
regression became collected, pure. The barn's cold air
would catch your breath in frost as you watched him paint. Absorb him.
But how to disappear completely, then, the dark lines, or not lines, here, again,
from far away, the canvas is not blank but also not yours—
also a shadow, perhaps of you standing in front of it, sun
behind you, phone ringing through one white room
to the next, him, never and always there.

Learning-To-Be-Middle-Class Checklist

Don't smile too much, but make sure
you're smiling enough.

Nod when people speak. Seem interested
while they're speaking. Don't get personal.

Watch the progress of the neighbor's lawn.
Be bothered by dandelion and clover.

Name your daughter something your parents
would not have chosen. Expect them

to love the name. Argue if they don't.
Reminisce about the struggles of childhood,

the bike you didn't have, your absent father,
your mother drinking Scotch over Rice-A-Roni,

forgotten brownies for your sleepover.
Curse cicadas as they tremor July's evening

with a 17-year old song. Wax the car yourself
and dread sudden rain. Talk about being thin. Vote

for someone. Drive everywhere.
Join a gym. Imagine there are no

children dragging their legs behind them
through the streets of Karbala.

Don't ask questions. Shop.
Do not seem racist. Fit. Think about an affair.

Don't talk about the news. Hold your breath
when you pray. Remember

yourself through the eyes of the last person
who saw you. Go to the fireworks.

Don't ask where Karbala is. Accept the cicadas. Sit
on your porch, wonder at the dullness of summer.