Four Poems by Jean Nordhaus






When Horowitz
for my brother

When Horowitz played Carnegie for war bonds
you were an ovum
swimming through the ovary,
a pearl among the roe.
Scraps of cloud
struck sharps and flats
in a summer sky when he played
Stars and Stripes Forever,
chords like drum-
corps marching through
small towns into ships
overseas into sky’s

Each note his piston
fingers pounded
cracked like gunshot,
and ailanthus
fronds in cities
trembled, cold wind
turning branches
of the oak tree red.
Bright against
gunmetal sky
the birds
flew up in scatters
and it was fall.

Then you were born
and Horowitz retired.
We wore woolen
army socks to school,
saved cans, string, boxtops,
turned out lights
and would not
be comforted forever
after, though we
scraped our plates
to the starry bottom
for the war children
hungry over there.


Every time I offer you my hand
and give you my first
name and my last,
I become more my self

and the disappearing that happens
when there is no one
to see me or speak my name
begins to recede and fade away.

When now we return
to our seats
and the music resumes,
a larger listening

inhabits me and I live
in the vibrating space
between cadence and
interval, being and not.

A Glove

It was raining hard
when I left the house
and climbed into the cab
and raining at the airport when I
paid the driver and stepped into
the morning wet and dark and I
felt calm and capable as I wheeled
my luggage through the terminal
and realized I’d left my gloves
and hurried back and found one
in the road beside the curb but not
the other and I went back inside
and called the company for I
had plenty of time and I could
learn from this and teach myself
to remain calm and accept things
as they come and anyway
it was only a glove
(a fine leather glove
with a cashmere lining)
and it was not my hand
my living hand and not
your death or a war or the end
of the world we know
is coming and I am
here and whole and it
was only a lifeless glove lying
wet and crumpled
in the rain without its other.


If you’ve looked through
these journals, if
in your on-rushing life

you’ve had time to revisit
these fragments of mine
and you notice some pages

with corners turned down—
triangles like fractions
of stars—know each

marks the seed of a poem
I meant, in my on-rushing life
to come back to, one in a multi-

verse of unwritten poems
with only one life
to gather them in, only

one life among light-years
of others and You,
carry on with your own.

Jean Nordhaus’s 7 volumes of poetry include Memos from the Broken World, The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn, Innocence, and The Music of Being. She has published work in American Poetry Review, the New Republic, and Poetry, among other journals and served for 8 years as review editor of Poet Lore.

Image: JimmyGuano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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