Miriam Geiger writes a letter in response to Hannah Altman’s monograph, Kavana (2020). 

To my father,

These days, I am left. My mind’s eye repeats and projects the image of you, in summer, on the sidewalk, in front of the bookstore. Wide smile and orange button-down shirt.

This memory is intrusive, but not unwelcome, like the image of you reflected on the glass over the framed bima cover at the funeral home, covered in a white sheet, except for your face. Resting, passive, the vertical blinds shifting, creating a simulacrum of breath.

Sometimes I see both images.

Or I see you across the kitchen table from me. Waiting for our mess of ginger, cloves, and bay leaves to cool. Or waiting for the french press to finish brewing. I still see you there, like a refraction in the glass. Not quite tangible.

The mirrors were covered, but I still caught my reflection in the windows after dark, before we shut the blinds, thought I saw you out of the corner of my eye. When leaving a mourner, we say,

הַמָּקוֹם יְנַחֵם אֶתְכֶם בְּתוֹךְ שְׁאָר אֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלָיִם

“May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

When one of us is in mourning, we remember other mourners. It is a community of ritual, the repetition of questions asked to the people who know more than us.

Some rituals become familiar, like the stones I keep at my desk, slowly memorized by grasping.

Remember when we went apple picking as a family, stuffing our mouths and pockets full of the fruit that would not fit into the basket we purchased?

I keep trying to gather myself and my thoughts, but the art of losing isn’t hard to master: the unfocus; the dust; the golden diffuse light and motes of pollen drifting down as you gesture to me. Were we coming or going, leaving the bookshop or about to turn onto the narrow brick walkway leading to the main door?

— Miriam Geiger

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