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Rituals

When no one is home, I open the box
and take one out, one of the five
white linen sheets my father
brings down from the attic
to hang on the walls of the sukkah.

It is still white, and the fabric still strong.
At the bottom are geometric patterns and the initials
RK embroidered in white
by my father’s sister Ruth at 15.
The patterns look as if they were stitched yesterday.

My father brought the sheets with him
to America, while Ruth stayed behind, waiting
for her visa. On the edges

she made buttonholes, the sheets to become the cover
for her comforter, made from the finest goose down,
that she would take to her marriage, and

sitting in her bridal chair like a queen,
I am dancing in front of her,
fulfilling the mitzvah to make the bride and groom happy,
and she is,

and we dance together,
smiling and laughing, dancing round and round,
until we are out of breath, until I am alone, whirling
in circles, so dizzy I can no longer stand.

Janet Kirchheimer’s poetry has appeared most recently in Poetry NZ, Cross Currents, and eCLAL, an online review to which she regularly contributes. She lives in New York City.