FROM THE CAIRO GENIZAH – a poem by Anne Whitehouse

FROM THE CAIRO GENIZAH

Documents and manuscripts
containing God’s name
couldn’t be destroyed in the usual way.
For a thousand years,
the Egyptian Jews of Fustat
put their old Bibles, prayer books,
and law codes in a hiding place
in Ben Ezra synagogue,
along with shopping lists, business records,
marriage contracts, divorce deeds,
fables and philosophy,
medical books and magical amulets,
and letters by the thousands.

But what was written
did not stay buried.
Eight hundred years later,
in a library in New York,
an old man touched a letter
written by Maimonides,
and he did not court disaster
as superstition predicted
but on the contrary was infused
with so much energy
it buoyed him up
and he practically floated
out the front door
of the library on 122nd Street,
walking as if propelled,
with the gait of a young man,
all the way downtown
to Times Square.

 

Anne Whitehouse is the author of six poetry collections Meteor Shower (2016) is her second collection from Dos Madres Press, following The Refrain in 2012. She is the author of a novel, Fall Love, as well as short stories, essays, features, and reviews. She was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and lives in New York City. You can listen to her lecture, “Longfellow, Poe, and the Little Longfellow War” here.

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