Two poems by Risa Denenberg

fossil view / credit: defossil view / credit: de

On Becoming a Geode

I left high school pregnant,
tiny pebble in the chaotic boot of the sixties.

Banished for smallminded things—
skipping class, protesting war, French kissing
in the girls’ room.

It was all so very polite and meaningless.

Stuff your leather jacket, your sandals, your poetry Business Relationships.We’re not interested. In you.

I left home the day my father slapped my face,
called me a slut. I don’t always make it
out the door before a fist or two.

Our bodies were formed

to be discarded.
to sleep in vacant lots.
to hide inside a crater.
to practice restraint.
to wait hundreds of millions of years.

to learn

how our interiors are filled with others’ needs.

(this photo of) My Grandmother

whom I forever never met (my lips that never brushed her cheek) who says
in a language I don’t speak, I didn’t know you could do that. I have only this photo.
I go right to the eyes they are green (although the photo is black and white)
I go from eyes to the slender philtrum and back to the eyes.
Silence is her blessing. She is a costume, a gesture of herself. She is me.
I swap her headdress for my backwards baseball cap (black with Seattle
written in pink script) her arthritic fingers so young,
so young dead at 54 Something is missing.
Yes, something is always missing. Because time and space are
the silence of questions like a storm of misunderstandings.
Such otherness, even in kin. Did you know that mother bears
will sometimes kill their young? That cichlids hold their eggs
in their mouths while the male sprays them with sperm?
But she is kin: my seed/my eggs/my mouth/my eyes/my philtrum.
And what I can’t quite see in the periphery: the pillows of repose
the lute strings the pages
which are her undergarments but
was my broken tooth and
is my irascible brother also
was my silent father who
is still his mother’s eyes my father’s mother’s eyes.
My eyes. The otherness of others is a type of silence.
Have you ever tried to quilt the sun? When you are done
turn the book (the one you are holding in your left hand)
to page 68 where you will find an announcement
of my death. You are not allowed to cry.

Risa Denenberg - grandmother

About Risa Denenberg

Risa Denenberg lives in Sequim, Washington, where she works as a nurse practitioner. She is a co-founder and editor at Headmistress Press and publishes reviews of poetry at The Rumpus, Crab Creek Review, Broadsided Press, and other venues. Risa curates The Poetry Café, an online meeting place where poetry chapbooks are celebrated and reviewed. She has published three chapbooks and three full-length collections of poetry, most recently, slight faith (MoonPath Press, 2018). For more information: and

Business Relationships Book