Issue > Poetry
Philip Terman

Philip Terman

Philip Terman's most recent collections are Our Portion: New and Selected Poems (Autumn House Press, 2015) and The Four Seasons, a hand-sewn collaboration with an artist and bookbinder. A selection of his poems, My Dear Friend Kafka, has been translated into Arabic and published by Ninawa Press in Damascus, Syria. He teaches at Clarion University. On occasion, he performs his poetry with the jazz group The Barkeyville Triangle.

All Our Years of Mother and Son

1: Mouth to Mouth

At the pool, the drowning man saved,
lying stock-still on the deck: suddenly,

my mother loosens my grip
and surges through the swarm

of dripping suits and leans over
his enormous body, tips his head back,

pinches his nostrils—her chest tenses
with air, she seals her mouth over his mouth

and, like a god breathing into Adam,
releases all of her breath into this stranger,

and I am full of anger and longing,
and he gasps and spits, his eyes opening,

the crowd stepping back and gawking
at my mother, who is now hovering, and he rises.


2. My Mother Cuts My Hair

To save money, my mother leads me
to the bathroom, sits me down
on the toilet, flashes the rusty scissors
in the dim light, The Honeymooners
audible from the next room. She snips
until I protest, then snips some more,
sculpting me into the straight-A student,
the boy that helps around the house,
the boy who grows up to be a mensch
and marries a Jewish woman but
doesn't forget his mother, building her
an addition for her declining years
and, when the time comes, lights
a candle and recites the kaddish
once a year. Snip, snip, snip.


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