Risa Denenberg

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She has allowed certain words to enter her body. 
Peering at jaundiced skin in the mirror and cola-colored 
pee in the toilet, she witnesses how ignorant we are
of our inner lives, the continual beating of ventricles,
the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the alveoli.
She thinks, I’ve never seen the shape or size of my liver. 

Cancer speaks in covert tongues, like toddlers with magic 
words: Kalabushti! or Slagermosh! But we are exoskeletons, 
vain and lordly, thinking we are hair, skin, nails, teeth. 
She tries to say certain words to her husband, her daughter, 
but cancer speaks for itself. Towards the end, she stops 
speaking in native voice, begins to speak only in god-tongue.


About the Author

  • Photo of Wynne MorrisonRisa Denenberg is a family nurse practitioner living in Tacoma, WA. She has worked in end-of-life care for many years. She is drawn to exploring themes of suffering and death and their intersections with religion, medicine, and art. Recent poems have appeared online at Soundzine, Umbrella, Sein und Werden, and Escape into Life.






    Published: June 1, 2011