Meditation on the Sabbath
By Philip Terman
I walk out beyond the dead
into an open field, the crescent
of the moon a thin outline
around its dark obscurity,
the silence summoning: Life is long.
Or did it whisper:
Life is longing, the final syllable
inaudible in the wind?
Whatever our sorrow—
a voice dispersed into the distance,
an image receding from its reflection—
it will accompany us forever.
Sometimes a grief is so large
we are unable to scale it
and we lose ourselves in our distractions—
leaves revolving in the restless air,
birds flocking towards their bodies’ demands,
the way we are commanded on this day to rest,
contemplate the silence, read the fiery books—
not even are we allowed to turn a light on,
nothing but the mystery and its ministers,
the settling garments of shadows,
the countless words the poets speak
as if the text were their lives
and time a river without banks.
And the names that surface
are flecks of light familiar with flesh—
who we were, who we become.
Philip Terman’s books include The House of Sages, Book of the Unbroken Days and Rabbis of the Air. His poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Georgia Review, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, Tikkun, and Blood to Remember: American Poets Respond to the Holocaust. He is the recipient of the Sow’s Ear Chapbook Award, The Kenneth Patchen Prize, and the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award for Poems on the Jewish Experience. He teaches creative writing and literature at Clarion University and co-directs the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival at the Chautauqua Institute. With his wife Christine and their daughters Mimi and Bella, he resides in a red-brick schoolhouse outside of Grove City, Pennsylvania.