Since 1996 Volume XXII


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Jean Nordhaus has published her poetry in Prairie Schooner, Poetry, APR, and Gettysburg Review among other journals and in five collections including The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn from Milkweed Editions and Innocence from Ohio State University Press. Her most recent collection is Memos from the Broken World, published by Mayapple Press in January, 2016. She has coordinated the reading series at the Folger Shakespeare Library, was President of Washington Writers’ Publishing House, and, most recently, has served as Review Editor for Poet Lore. She spends her time in Washington, DC and Taos, New Mexico.


and the ass, the two man-servants 
below on the plain, the ram 
the wood, the knife, 
the fire.  The pit, the rack, 
the bullwhip-- all the instruments 

were innocent: iron slept 
cold in the ground.  But love 
was not innocent. It was love 
who gave the order and love 
who obeyed, who carried and stacked 

the wood, offered wrists and 
ankles for the binding.  Love
prepared the fire and raised 
the knife, and it was love 
who lowered it.  Bless the animals, 

who live without mercy:  the ape 
with her beautiful breasts, 
nursing her young, the tethered
ram, and the ass grazing there 
in the lowlands -- little wooly ass 

who cannot pray, who hears only 
the braying of wind in the grass
and when death comes with its smell 
of lion, answers: Here am I,
and falls to its knees without wonder.

from the book by the author, The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn, Milkweed Editions.


My life in hiding
is not unlike your own.
Each morning, I clap a tame face
over my wild one, dress as you dress, 
train my gestures to resemble yours. 

Time touches me, 
brushing my skin.  Money 
slides through my hands.
Eggs siphon through my body,
sand through glass.

There are days when nothing happens, 
evenings when the winter sun
turns the sky to a city in flames.
Sometimes I speak to myself 
and a stranger answers.

When the child began to grow inside me, 
clambering from deeper into lighter shade, 
to crown from hiding 
into hiding, I saw how camouflage 
contains disclosure, how each unveiling
draws us 

into deeper disguise.  And so I rise 
from caves of wrath to live
as one of you, a woman wrapped
in silence, bearing alive 
my buried name.

—from the book by the author, My Life in Hiding, Quarterly Review of Literature: Poetry Series X


Islanded, he must have been surprised
as she to find herself alone
in a season when even the winged
seeds of the maple come paired.

She admires his ingenuity
and how, bereft, he never lacks for comfort
how from the wreckage of hope, he framed
a habitation, fortified it
with a palisade of still-green sticks
that rooted in a self-renewing wall.

Slowly, taking pains, he taught himself
to fire cooking pots of clay, grind flour
for bread. Inventing agriculture,
rediscovering animal husbandry
and tailoring, he built a life
not so unlike the life he’d left. Once

from a felled tree, he carved a boat
so big he couldn’t drag it to the water.
He started over, dug a smaller 
vessel he could launch—for time
was all he had—twenty-eight
years, long enough to marry
and to raise a child…

It’s night. The telephone lies still. 
Beside her looms the empty bed
unmapped and dangerous
as sleep. And so she pulls the afghan close 
settles her glasses on her nose and reads.

—from the book by the author, My Life in Hiding, Quarterly Review of Literature: Poetry Series X


For over a year it lay in the garage
bedded beside my homely Subaru


long, lean, muscular, beautiful,
bought in the joy of remission


six summers ago, in an access of hope.
It was there when I drove out each morning,


the battery long dead, though once it roared,
and there at night when I slid in beside it,


docking snugly in my narrow slip.
I was tough, sorting, tossing, warding off,


but when the driver came
with his dinosaur tow-truck, hauled


the body up the ramp and drove away
I went in and had to sit and a shrill trail


of unfamiliar whoops rose from my throat.
It rose from that primeval cave where the winds


abide —the aboriginal death wail,
ululations of abandoned Hindu brides.


Who is this woman, I wondered?
Who are these women howling through me?

appeared in Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Summer, 2018


I’ve put the menorah back 
on the mantel, my ecumenical mantel,
next to the Buddha hand

tenderly warding off fear
next to the mani stone, promising 
transport, the rippling snake-god 

with turquoise eyes and the tin 
Spanish church with its two 
fat crosses and vessel for matches. 

Side-by-side in the sun on the slate
ledge above the blackened 
fireplace, above the fine, white 

ashes of yesterday’s coals,
they sit, collegial and calm 
in the drowse of afternoon 

oblivious to the fires 
they have kindled, the flames
they’ve fed, the conflagrations.

To either side, tools are ranged: 
the poker, the shovel, the rake,
the grill, the tongs.

appeared in Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Summer, 2018

All poems are Copyright © Jean Nordhaus.

PoetryMagazine.com is published by Gilford Multimedia LLC  www.nycny.net

Mary Barnet


Grace Cavalieri

Joan Gelfand

Janet Brennan