Jean Nordhaus: "All There Is of Light"




After dinner we canoe home

slightly tipsy, glow of wine

and table-talk dissolving


in depthless dark.

Dim stars overhead. fading

plumes of phosphorescence


stirred by our strokes in the water.

Anchor-lights of sailboats

in the cove sketch out


impromptu constellations.

For sound: the soft slap

of a wave, knock of blade


against hull. We work

at keeping level,

trusting the surface


to carry us safely

over fathoms we don't wish

to plumb, eyes fixed


on the nearest star, a lamp

left on in the shadow-

house we steer for.



Jean Nordhaus has published a number of books, including My Life in Hiding, A Bracelet of Lies, and The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, New Republic, Poetry, Best American Poetry 2000, and The Other Side of the Hill: 1975-1995, an anthology of poems by the Capitol Hill Poetry Group. Nordhaus has served as Coordinator of the Folger Shakespeare Library's poetry programs and as President of Washington Writers' Publishing House. She lives in Washington, DC.