New Poetry by Philip Terman


Walking to Jerusalem

Pedometer attached to her belt, your mother, spry and strong
at eighty, joins the other Methodist Church members
in calculating the 5,915 miles, no matter the weather, to add up
all the way from Linesville, Pennsylvania to Jerusalem.
They need not worry about miracles or pausing
at the signs of the cross. They need not stop for security
to check their purses for weapons. They need no visa
nor baggage, no money to exchange for shekels, no guide-
book, no guide. They need no ancient tongue or prophecies.
They are, simply, day by day, walking, mile after mile:
from the sink to the table, uptown to the post office, down
the block to visit the sick neighbor. Sundays to and from church.
And when they walk far enough, adding up their pedometers
together, they will arrive in Jerusalem. And keep walking.


Drying the Torah

Because the synagogue pipes burst
in the coldest part of the winter,
causing mildew in the holy ark, the Torah

became damp, edges curled like dried
leaves, stitched sinews loosened
between sheets of sheepskin, dabs of ink—

prepared ages ago from soot, tree sap
and honey, dissolved in gallnut juice, scribed
with the feather of a goose, its quill

a reed and not a weapon of destruction—
bleeding through the parchment.
And the two women lift its heaviness,

delicately remove the silver crown
and breastplate, unfasten its pointer,
slip off the velvet robe, unscroll

and spread out all five books across
the length of the sanctuary, 304,
805 letters exposed and revealed

to the open air, from In the beginning
to the death of Moses, whom the Lord knew
face to face.
They press their own faces

close to the surface as they can, closer,
without breaking the law of touching it,
inhale deeply the animal flesh: smells

like my horse, says one. Like soil, says
the other. They whisper how it will lay there
overnight in the sanctuary, freed finally

from its closet where it is condemned
to straighten up at attention until
the curtain parts and the congregation

rises—and for once it will be free
from all that worship, all that praise,
all that chanting and bowing and chanting

and bowing. Alone in the silent dark
of its healing, will it remember when
it was torn and spit upon? Will it recall

when it was set on fire? Or will it dream
of all those lovers embracing its body as if
they were quivering on a tottering earth

all the days and nights of their lives?


2 thoughts on “New Poetry by Philip Terman

  1. Would like to communicate with you concerning the translation of one of your books into Arabic by Saleh Razzouk… He told me that you wished to communicate with somone who is literate in both English and Arabic….
    I have done writing and translation from Arabic into English and from English into Arabic. You can check my writings in and other websites.
    Search my name ( Inaam Al-Hashimi) in Google to find some of my translations into English and in Arabic (انعام الهاشمي)
    To find my Arabic translations and other writings in Arabic.
    I welcome any joint projects in that fileld … Contact me on the email provided above.
    New York, USA

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