The Other Half by Jan Gross

The Other Half


I wax; she wanes.
I indulge; she conserves
I equivocate; she affirms
I tiptoe; she forges ahead
I waffle; she defies
I recoil; she stands her ground
I linger in the present; she fast forwards into the future
I tinker with phrasing; she cuts to the chase
My ideas are subtle; hers strike to the core
My prose is sprawling, her poetry is sparse
My words meander; hers pack a punch

Our negotiated friendship
between what keeps us apart
what draws us near

We live miles apart, but stay attached to what keeps us whole
We write as if our lives depended on it;
at times, they do
We freeze-frame our feelings, so as not to lose them over time
We transfix our double-helix selves in turns of phrase
Where poems, letters, and recordings authenticate our common ancestry
And lovingly braid together strands of different pasts, colors, and ages

Time presses; our grip tightens

on all that was

Time passes; threatening to leave us


But neither of us is free to give in or give up,
That other half would never allow it.
Thank goodness!

I know that she knows that.


Jan Gross is professor emerita of French at Grinnell College where she enjoyed teaching the language, literatures and cultures of the French-speaking world. Her work explores how literature, film, and especially theatre, help us to imagine otherness. Based on an unlikely friendship marked by differences of age, career path, and skin color, she is currently collaborating with friend and fellow poet on a collection of poems, "Black, White, and Everything In/Between Us."


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  1. About our 43 year dear, dear friendship:
    “We ((sometimes)) live far apart,
    But stay attached to what keeps us whole”
    We can just pick up, at a moment’s notice, our wonderful friendship, whether separated by DC, Paris, or Madison, and just seemlessly start again where we left off. Fantastic poetry, Jan!!! We congratulate you!!! Here’s to sailing at Red Rock this summer…

  2. Judi,
    I feel like this poem is addressed to you as one of the people who epitomizes friendship. It’s so special to feel time and space fade away when sharing a sail at sunset on Lake Red Rock. A memory for all time!
    Biggest hugs,

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