By Maya Wahrman
By now in Germany
rare books were so unwanted you could buy a sack
for only a shilling. So downtown Jerusalem
was bookshops bustling
with treasures of the written word
from the exile-land. Men of faith, famous authors,
many frequented his store, mingled among
the bookshelves, set out to explore
the words he owned and printed. Vanilla,
must, tan wood-based pages, bound.
The aroma made a man want books
with his tongue. Some men
found books they’d always wanted,
some wanted books they’d just found.
One customer fingered spines as he muttered prayer
under his breath. Rebuild our city Jerusalem,
please, hurry! It was 1939,
Jerusalem was being rebuilt in our time,
the storeowner’s home back in Frankfurt
was torn apart.
In the store,
men from all over the city would start
reliving, would meet Jews who seemed
foreign, would accustom themselves
to the desert dry heat of the Judean hills.
No longer reliving, now living.
He died. Store shut, past-life books
became harder to find.
But men said and wrote,
the city was never the same
when the doors closed.
Maya Wahrman graduated from Princeton University’s Department of History, with certificates in Creative Writing and Near Eastern Studies. She currently works at Princeton’s Office of Religious Life on issues of faith and forced migration. She has had opinion pieces published in the English and Hebrew editions of Haaretz, and has had poetry published in the Nassau Literary Review, the Jewish Currents poetry anthology Urge, and Sweet Tree Review.