068.1: Eric Kocher:: The Objects of Migration & Buffaloes Watching & Silkworm Pheremonal 068

This beautiful and elegiac triptych of poems by Eric Kocher is saturated with empathy, love, sadness, and loss. Reading them, one may be tempted to recall the works of Marianne Moore, whose poems of linear breadth and syllabic expansion frequently paid homage to the animal kingdom, though Kocher’s work sings from a place more desperate, more urgent, and more sorrowful that one may also be tempted to recall Merwin as well. Where Kocher's work stands apart from predecessors is through unexpected rolls of syntactical disruption and rhythmic cadence. If he is a poet counting in syllabics, then he is able to avoid the tinny clap that can accompany syllabic verse. Instead, I am convinced that Kocher’s work is motivated by strong lines and strong imagery that reinforces the rhythm, as in “Silkworm Pheremonal”:

      only a trace
      your muffled echo

      stumbling home again
      its own bad news

      a fabrication
      by all of us

      as we would have believed

If we try to imagine this section in longer lines, or even a prose poem structure, the cadence fails and grows clumsy, too self-conscious of its own repetition. Instead, Kocher wonderfully lets the urgency build slowly in a kind of elegiac sonority, where piece-by-piece, the empathy builds alongside the desire. It is not the silkworm or the buffalo desired in these poems but the absence of the lost subject, the un-obtained perennially fertilizing the grief and despair. Admittedly, grief and despair are not the theme music of the Love Boat, but that is what draws me to Kocher’s work—true empathy achieved through the shattering admission and witness of a breaking and vanishing world. Cody Todd

The Objects of Migration

Suddenly, and from above,
            one moves toward us,

a tremendous shadow arriving
            ahead of a distant light

and the eventual darkness
            of its arrival.

We evade. We break down
            and then away

but never apart. No, together
            we appear

as the inevitable current of being together,
            the threat that if ever one

were to enter, they might be swept away,

in the same and approaching light.
            We are one,

mostly, we are lucky. We survive,
            but once in a while one of us

is taken into the dark one’s claws
            and carried silently

beneath the cover of branches below us.
            We are permitted this loss;

we were not any better, stronger,
            only left or right, ahead or below.

We learn the price of surviving
            is each time one of us dies

everyone dies with them,
            and every time we do

we feel a little bit lighter
            and somehow it seems we move

always the same distance
            and closer back, back,

we must go back
            to the world where we were born.

Buffaloes Watching

The spirit of the poet craves spectators—even if only buffaloes.
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Just like how I like it,
            you prick up your
ears, shift your massive

            body a little closer
to me in the gathering
            herd—the closed-in,

the frightened—you are so
            good at finding me
here. And even if we are

            separated by some
inexhaustible space, there
            is always a way of

asking the earth how to be
            with you again, if I,
with my head against

            the ground know
precisely the shape your
            sound makes inside

of a much larger sound.
            And when I can see
you on the horizon, in tufts

of brown and gray American
            colloquial, is attached
an old soul, a rising cloud

            of dust over your
name I have given you. You
            see, I want to be seen

most by what is endangered.
            What I want most
to see is in all this astonishing

            wind for the vague
mass of your breath to do
            more than just

disappear. Staying is a fine
            trick for a big animal.
To remain completely,

            to be with me always,
to be honest, is the thing
            I am after, to have

made a home in you, even
            if to do so means
to have lost you forever.

Silkworm Pheremonal

The signature hymn
of your body
a thousand acres sung

sprayed here to confuse

to keep us
not apart
but from the field

where you must be waiting

in a field
we show up

and find you
no one
but ourselves

and the deliberate swarms
of our lust

stupid clouds of us
gullible hearts

turned pestilent and needy

and somewhere secret
far away
and hidden

among the mulberry
your antennas
comb the air
like ancient ferns listening

and nothing coming back

only a trace
your muffled echo

stumbling home again
its own bad news

a fabrication
by all of us

as we would have believed

we would have
kept searching and never


each and every thing
between us

all consumed
by your song

we would have kept
only to find

there is a field
where we are
without you

and that there has to be
at least
one other

left for us to find.