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Ruth Ellen Kocher

Ruth Ellen Kocher

Ruth Ellen Kocher is the author of One Girl Babylon, When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering, winner of the Green Rose Prize in Poetry; and Desdemona’s Fire, winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. Her work has appeared in various journals, including Ploughshares, Crab Orchard Review, Clackamas Literary Review, The Missouri Review, African American Review, The Gettysburg Review, and Antioch, among others. She lives in St. Louis, and teaches literature and writing at the University of Colorado.

Also by Ruth Ellen Kocher


When the Moon Knows You're Wandering

When the Moon Knows You're Wandering

When the Moon Knows You're Wandering

$14.00 paper | 51 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-930974-11-1
Publication Date: February, 2002
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A Green Rose Book

When the Moon Knows You're Wandering turns on the theme of lost and found paths, of being perpetually lost and then found. But even more than lost, driven to abandon the paths of one's past. The moon in the title poem serves as landmark, tool of navigation, and silent witness. The speaker, distracted by the world, wanders, spiritually and physically, searching for some anchor that will return her to a significant sense of "home." She becomes a migrant of sorts, finding her way by what is common to all of us–landscape, song, and memory. Resolution for the speaker comes not in the journey but in the return to the simple articles of a life, the things we call home.

"If we are all sometimes lost, as these haunting poems recognize, the gift is that we are lost in this world, a world Kocher's compelling and often searingly tender voice speaks from. Here, our most private moments are connected to the most distant and public--from the dream of a lost lover in the form of a white crane woven inextricably with a Peruvian earthquake in ‘Long Arm Forward,’ down to the quietest single image in ‘At Home the People Sing’ where language itself remains 'a doorway, to remind us our lives/ are not a pain we dream/ to remind us we are alive.' When the Moon Knows You're Wandering, is, in short, a very wise, beautiful and moving book."
––Beckian Fritz Goldberg

"In When the Moon Knows You're Wandering, Ruth Ellen Kocher is remarkably attuned to 'the overture of the object,' the intimate disclosures of rain, bougainvillea, sweet carrot. Unlike the sister who 'doesn't say' in Kocher's beautiful 'Sestina Mouths the Object, the Word,' the poet carries us away in a language that, like water, can be moved by 'an object/that has broken the surface.' In the dark lake of this poem, it may be 'the two oars...who were lovers' that strike a reader, or elsewhere, 'the keels' of a girl's hands before she'd understood 'her own body, the warm cove keen to growing things...' Overture, aperture. I think anyone opening this book will discover 'the singular way inanimate things come to love us/by giving us back some of ourselves.'"
––Allison Funk

Praise for Desdemona's Fire:

"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."
––Bruce Weigl

From Foreword Magazine:

Kocher’s subject matter is refreshingly varied, the emotional tone drifting from languid, through building, to outrage. Her use of enjambment functions like a brickbat, designed not merely to invite but to stun the reader on to the next line: “She has the terrible love of the praying/ mantis, this girl...”
        —Sandy McKinney


When the Moon Knows You're Wandering

     The shadow slant of your own body
somehow takes the ground in,
desperately wanting the surface of grass,
rock of the familiar in the moon’s eye:
light that blues your midnight form.
How many years have you been gone?
And who drove you away—not a man or a stone
seeming to mark some path you run towards,
but a wind that rose in the pink depth of your lung
like first breath, the exaltation in knowing

you are lost. Say your own name backwards to prove
you exist, an ancient tongue that steels the simple evening air on which
you rely like Pharoh building the tomb for years.

Know your old age already in youth as if you began
wrinkled and bent to the earth with old sorrows, cold hands.
You are not the field of wars that turn the earth over
and over like a thin coin, the girl suffering
ebola near a tree while her brother, coughing,
digs her grave. Go where you will.
The sun rises there. The water flows.
Women wake in the middle of the night
trying to remember their names, their faces.
The names of their fathers.
Keep this blue light near your heart,
the dull thunder of your want
tracing each step, each pace that seems like direction.
The moon knows you’re wandering,
even though the road thinks you’re home.