I’ve written the soup, the parting of the sea,
the savage plagues and the candles—
how they guttered when the door
fell open for Elijah: wind from the hall,
where a shadow of flame
tongued incinerator walls.
What more can I write of ritual foods
and repetitions, exile and return?
However we angle it, a Rite of Spring.
Let it mean whatever we need it to mean—
this year, the flood of refugees
and Pharaoh’s fear of aliens.
Why, then, when you ask for a poem,
am I haunted by the afikomen,
the shy half-matzah
wrapped in a napkin-babushka,
then spirited away
to be hidden in a corner cabinet,
behind a bookcase,
in a cushion, a crease,
reluctant as Moses to be chosen,
and only hours later,
when the children are nodding
and we’re flushed with sweet
wine and singing, remembered
for a dollar, a pittance, a coin.
Jean Nordhaus’s books include Memos from the Broken World, Innocence and The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn. Her poems have appeared in such publications as American Poetry Review, The New Republic, Poetry and Best American Poetry.
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