Issue > Poetry
Philip Terman

Philip Terman

Philip Terman's recent collections of poems are Rabbis of the Air(2007) and The Torah Garden (2011), both with Autumn House Press, which will publish his New and Selected Poems in 2015. Recent work can be found in The Laurel Review, Kestrel, and the anthologies 99 Poems for the 99 Percent and The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. He teaches creative writing at Clarion University and co-directs the Chautauqua Writers' Festival.

Spring Lexicon

Two robins in the churchyard are loving it up,
wings treading, spinning around the steeple—
in this first real dusk of spring,

then returning to earth, constructing  
their small bowl of shelter.

Don't they know they are on sacred ground?
That just a few feet beyond, a choir is chorusing against the body?

Yet they continue, now swooping and soaring above the cemetery,
beyond our theology, singing.

Season of coltsfoot and intermittent winds,
of mid-morning snow showers

then quick sun, season of shadows and tools,
of rubber boots, tiny plants under grow lights,

of the cardinal's on again off again affair with our bedroom window,
of red hollyhocks, soft pink poppies, peach honeysuckle, purple clematis,
of pea-sized grapes, of grape-sized apples—

sails of the swallowtail, sighs of the retriever,
a distant hammering under the patriarchal pine,

of leaves lush and cobalt-blue sky-patches through branch-openings,
of windy occasions, indeterminate cullings of apples:

here we can announce that our birth and death are elsewhere,
out there with the out there,
or so far deep inside us they root us to this place and time—

     A child,
I stood beneath petals
shaped like tiny palms fanning the air
and wondered how these robins conceal themselves in all that daylight.

I climbed the backyard apple tree,
its fruit lit from their inside out
to see if I could pet a bird.

I wanted to be so close
I could stroke an orange-reddish breast
or throat, white streaked with black,

and stare deep into eyes spotted
as the grass and reeds and mud they nest in.

Higher and higher
my thin limbs straddled its limbs
until, at the point I'd have to think my way down,

I caught,
in the hollow where truck smoothes into branch,
two so wrapped in each others' wings

they couldn't fly away.

Sunday night, children put to bed, our bodies in the bath,
between happiness and the rest of the week—

all day we've cleared the ground, gathered branches,
raked leaves, burned them in the center of the garden—

and if this is what we are in the end,
then shouldn't we bring all of ourselves, including our shadows,

into the rhythm, the new arbor, the clematis, the climbing rose:
we dig postholes, we balance and measure, we set concrete and hope it stays—

don't tell me this was foreordained,
don't tell me we've been going through the same motion,
a wheel spinning in its recurrence.

It's the sparrow in the about-to-burst lilac,
those indeterminate robins in the tip-top of the apple tree—

the world, a place to start,
the light insisting on its moment, the wind brushing the fallen blossoms
across the shadows of the tree they float from,

and, ahead, all that bird love.


James Lineberger

James Lineberger
There Comes a Time


Randi Ward

Randi Ward


Kristene Brown

Kristene Brown
Mugshot of Grandma