Issue > Poetry
Philip Terman

Philip Terman

Philip Terman's most recent books of poetry are The Torah Garden (Autumn House, 2011) and Rabbis of the Air (Autumn House, 2007). His work has recently appeared in Kestral, The Sun, Zeek Mazagine and the The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. A co-director of the Chautauqua Writers' Festival, he teaches at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

Don't Ask Spinoza

What is the sparrow on the tassels establishing?  
Like happiness: here, gone.  

Saturday morning, August, pleasure of poetry
and fresh eggs from the Stallard's chickens and just-picked tomatoes.

Meanwhile, the baler scripts its stanzas:  
poetry of sweetness,

poetry of all-day labor,
poetry the cows will eat.

It's Sabbath: when we pass from the workaday world
and into the world set aside for beauty,

when god collapses in his chair
and lights the candles and blesses himself.  

So what if our ancestors were herring dealers
and Talmudic scholars?  

Half of me is dust, one of them said,
half of me is wind.  

Even Spinoza, in a less rational mood, inclines to let it go,
let his philosophy of ethics drift off like sleep,

like the crickets on the sassafras,
because certain matters can only be taught in a whisper,

like late summer, this wheel, this parable, this radiance.  
Why not a little shade?

Why not slip off our sandals
and soak our calloused feet in the water?

Even the swallowtail rests on the Queen Anne's lace.  
Even the koi settle in the shade of the harbor.  

Even the chicory is shy
in the rarity of its blue.  

Afternoons we turn over the compost,
shovel thick black soil into the wheelbarrow,

mix it in under the blueberry bushes,
lay exhausted and read about the world to come,

about the 248 words that constitute our holiest prayer,
the swallowtail floating its piano-key wings

across the mid-afternoon sky.
And for this little while we believe

in the stillness of the moment,
as if the grapes weren't fattening toward ripeness,

and therefore won't be picked and eaten,  
and our children will never grow old.


Amit Majmudar

Amit Majmudar


Alessandra Lynch

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Alica Friman

Alice Friman
The Real Thing