Old Rivalry – Jean Nordhaus

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The Great Rift of Africa

Here metaphor
abandons us. Jericho Road
runs straight to Jericho. Sparrows
spar for crumbs, a scratch
of seed, a patch of dust
in Montefiore park.

They were there,

we were here.  The line
ran through those trees.
When I look, I see only orchards,
a river, vineyards, fields.

A Visit

A run-down flat partitioned
from a once-grand house,
the ornate ceiling mapped
with plaster cracks.
We talk of poetry, skirt
politics, eat cake.


Hard to tell if that hill
is a tel or a bunker,
a place of battle, or a pile
of bones. The eucalyptus
sway like women wailing.

Sephardic Synagogue at Sunset

Men gathering
from separate lives
to common prayer.  Casual,
without much ceremony.  This man
with a gun.  His younger
brother with a cane.

The soldier comes home

each weekend with his laundry.
She mends his knapsack,
cooks his favorite dumplings
sends him back.

Old Rivalry

A splay-legged, white-muzzled
bitch barks and barks
at an enemy dog
in a neighboring house.

Jean Nordhaus has published five books of poetry, including The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn (Milkweed Editions, 2002) and Innocence (Ohio State University Press, 2006).