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Fragments of a life

August 27, 2012

by Risa Denenberg

Here are bits from my blog, Risa’s Pieces, small fragments of a life, which will always be a work in progress, at least until death, which I prepare for as best I know how.

One Way

We arrive early on a chilly morning. The home is spotless and charming, embossed with her favorite colors, reds and pinks. Her daughters are gracious, relieved to have support, offer us coffee. We sit at the kitchen table and open 90 barbiturate capsules, briskly tapping them and then using a toothpick to remove all of the white powder. We dissolve it in 4 ounces of cranberry juice. About 30 minutes ahead of the time she had carefully chosen, she takes pills to quiet the stomach and chase away nausea. Everyone is sad and peaceful. She holds the glass with both hands—a bit unsteady, sitting in a rocking chair, bright red afghan across her legs—and takes two long deliberate swallows. Gives a sweet, tearful hug to each daughter, then relaxes back in her chair, smiles gently, and falls asleep in about five minutes. There is no struggle. No noise or movement. Twenty minutes later, there is no heartbeat.

Pieces of a Story

I couldn’t have reached this place
without kinship
could not have been born
without my mother
or father, for that matter
or become who I am without
my brother or the sister
who died at her birth, 8 years before mine
now an archetype, absent, much grander
than I can ever become
without so much as a
or the cousin
my aunt gave away
not exactly thoughtlessly
but without knowing
the effect it would have
on her legitimate children, two born before
and one after the affair
or for that matter, the effect
of her untimely death on all of us, God
forbid what did in fact happen
to her daughters in foster care
and to peripheral me
who was ignorant
of the born-dead-girl
and the give-away-boy
and as sordidly as this
I blemish others
lost custody of my own son
letting go mournfully, like every mother does
so much so that most of this story
are the pieces I did not know
the ones that have harrowed me

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Risa Denenberg is an aging hippie currently living in Sequim, Washington. Her chapbook, What we owe each other, is forthcoming from The Lives We Touch Publications. Risa blogs about poetry, aging, death and other matters at Risaden.

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  1. Tony Acarasiddhi Press
    August 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Each is excellent – together, more so.

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