Risa Denenberg is a nurse practitioner and poet. She is an editor at Headmistress Press, an independent publisher of poetry by lesbians. She has published three chapbooks, and two full-length books of poetry. Her collection A Slight Faith is forthcoming in 2018 from MoonPath Press.
How Two Trees Become a Forest
─for Arthur Sze
A teacher draws Chinese characters on the chalkboard to show
how two trees become a forest. Chalk is soft white limestone
composed of the shells of foraminifers. A student looks up
the Chinese character for shell. An Afghani school girl covers
her head and walks to the schoolhouse with broken windows.
She tells her teacher she hopes to become a doctor. I bring
soup to a neighbor who tells me she hopes to die soon. The girl
on the radio sings: my body’s in trouble. I wonder will I die alone.
A lonely boy pauses in front of a girl sketching a forest of firs
and yews. Their branches barely move in the humid haze of noon.
An infant grabs the wooden slats of her crib and pulls herself up
to cry out for her mother. I think how much is lost without these
ciphers to speak for us. Foraminifers are single-celled amoebae.
The foramen ovale is a hole in the heart that must close at birth.