Meeting In Jerusalem - Poem by Paul Hansford
“Mea-She’arim is blessed with many synagogues and schools for the learning of the Torah and its commentaries. Its inhabitants have retained the mode of life practised and the garments worn in the ghettos of Europe.” (Guide to Israel - Zev Vilnay)
We didn’t go to Mea-She’arim on Saturday
because they throw stones at cars there on the Sabbath.
We wanted to see the locals, certainly,
but only to look in a respectful way. We had not expected
to make contact. But crossing the road
you dropped your book – Torah or commentary,
how was I to know? You didn’t notice the loss of it.
I picked up the book, ran after you.
Not knowing how to address you, I touched your sleeve.
You turned to me, took the proffered book
without a word, and looked at me. Your eyes,
beneath your strange hat, between your side-curls,
showed hatred, or perhaps
no expression. You turned away.
Was your garment unclean now? Did the volume
need to be purified? I was only
returning your book. We had not expected
to make contact.
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