A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

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"God’s Speech" by Philip Terman

God's Speech

My parents were most in love

when they spoke the little Yiddish

they remembered, sounding like


exotic birds or a soundtrack

to a film they starred in, more romantic

without the subtitles,


which would have revealed

their workaday conversation:

vi iz geven gesheft

an ander drek tog—


but it was the other world,

it was G-d’s speech, what

they didn’t want to pass on,


that language that killed

their cousins, that language

their parents suffered

not to speak. But


they sometimes fargesn

and slipped into the oy gevalts

and the sheyn punims

of their childhoods, which,


against their best intentions,

no matter how hard they tried not to,


they left a bisl

to us, their liebchens.

Philip Terman

Philip Terman’s most recent books are This Crazy Devotion (Breadstone Books, 2020), Our Portion: New and Selected Poems (Autumn House Press, 2015) and, as co-translator with the Syrian writer and translator Saleh Razzouk, Tango Beneath a Narrow Ceiling: The Selected Poems of Riad Saleh Hussein (The Bitter Oleander Press, 2021). Poems and essays appear in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry Magazine, The Kenyon Review, The Sun, and Poetry International. He directs The Bridge Literary Arts Center in Franklin, PA and co-directs the Jewish Poets Reading Series, sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of Buffalo. On occasion, he performs his poetry with the jazz band Catro. For more information, visit www.philipterman.com.



Philip Terman
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