Face to Face: The Poetic Hill


Capitol Hill poet Jean Nordhaus is the author of several highly regarded poetry collections, including “A Bracelet of Lies” (1987), “The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn” (2002), “Innocence” (2006), which won the Charles B. Wheeler Prize, and “Memos from the Broken World” (2016), as well as a poetry chapbook, “A Language of Hands” (1982). Her work has been published in American Poetry Review, the New Republic, Poetry, Best American Poetry, and Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses.

Nordhaus was the poetry coordinator for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s poetry programs, has taught at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, and serves as the review editor of Poet Lore, the oldest continuously publishing poetry journal in the US.

The poem below appears in “This Is What America Looks Like” (2021), an anthology of poetry and fiction from DC, Maryland, and Virginia published by The Washington Writers’ Publishing House and edited by Caroline Bock and Jona Colson (www.washingtonwriters.org). The anthology will be on sale at this year’s Literary Hill BookFest on May 1 in the North Hall of Eastern Market from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. www.literaryhillbookfest.org

Face to Face

In the House of Zoom, we sit
each at our windows, gazing out

like days on an advent calendar
from a study, a living room, a den

into the common. Some have given thought
to the mise en scène, arranging

the art on the wall, objects and books
on the shelf. I enjoy the display,

but what grips me most is the glimpse
into the rooms beyond, a bathrobe hung

on the back of a door, a hanging pot
in the kitchen just over

your shoulder, the bottom step
of a flight of stairs I could climb

to a place that is hidden.
Imagination helps, but who

can truly grasp the mystery
of another’s life: Summer is coming.

Now we see through a glass darkly
images of trouble and smoke

as we wait in our separate rooms
in the one human house.

If you would like to have your poem considered for publication, please send it to klyon@literaryhillbookfest.org. (There is no remuneration.)