Risa Denenberg


Alex MacLean

Road Map

I’ve traced the blueprint of us
onto a map of five boroughs.
I’ve changed the street names.
I’m trying to show you
where we are.

I drew thick lines of green and blue
and added a yellow river.
I obliterated all familiar routes.
I wanted to lay bare
how we do these things.

Discalced

I scour the hours you’ve renounced, trace
the faint trajectory of your absence, ache
for the loneliness of our intimacy—

the ruptured husk of us. I pull the single
boot you’ve left behind onto the wrong
foot, limping room to room.

This odd caesura of snow, dampening
sounds and scents, milky baby’s breath,
crisp white noise inside an icy stillness.

Days are snowflakes

No two alike, but each the same.
Endless strings of icy H-2-Os
that melt, vanish, recur as rain
then freeze again.

The stunt of endlessly recycling seasons
is stale. Death pours our draughts,
shares a swig. Life is a pie crust
that crumbles with its filling.

Anhedonia

I have no talent for pleasure.
My skin rebuffs touch. Plunking
through weeks of days, the music
goes bleep, bleep, bleep. Even salt
has lost its brine. Ticking off senses
one by one as they wither. Spring returns,
the forsythia fail to astonish.

I once loved long morning drives
along winding country roads,
as the sun swelled centimeter
by centimeter through seasons,
until for one week, a blinding blaze,
and then its pale retreat. Wondering
what happens to fields of corn stalks
turned under, leaves that drain green
to reveal bursts of orange, winter’s first snow.

When I was still trying, in my own way,
to undress the universe and know her.

–first published in Soundzine

Shocked

for Thomas Merton

I see his bare chest, fresh from the shower,
towel wrapped and tucked at waist, glancing
around the cloistered room, the single cot,
the modest writing desk, the tall fan—

then quietly reaching to turn it on, rotate
the wings of prayer, spinning west to east
last thoughts perhaps of wind storms and aridity—

and that current buzzing through his body
staying the precious heart, that monk of a man
who bore on his broad Trappist shoulders the yoke

of Jesus and Buddha embracing, it must have been
a mouth-watering surprise.



Risa Denenberg is an aging hippy currently living in Seattle. She earns her keep as a nurse practitioner and 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 SoundzineUmbrellaSein und Werden, and this-a literary webzine.

Risa Denenberg at Soundzine

Risa Denenberg’s blog




  • really enjoyed ‘road map’… excellent.

  • thank you Risa for sharing your trip to the east. Thanks to kathleen Kirk’s mention of you on her blog.
    Your insights, even though not necessarily written about (intraspective nuances of) in this ‘road map’ you touched upon in a time lapse reference of ‘here with a friend then not’, embracing the memories.
    I turn 60 this upcoming month of April. I too, like all of us so poignantly reminded by Sendai, in moments like this consider my mortality with greater ‘reverence’. I fear not death but the loss of memories, the possibility of not being remembered by those who seemingly cared for me, the …bread tasting stale, loss of being able to amble on backyard paths and walks around the block with my two miniature poodles, but once again the ‘cognizance’ of the warm embraces by those who love me and who I love.

    Thanks for sharing

  • mark

    It’s right in front of me and you put it there, what a relief and a pleasure.