“Body of well-known naturalist found in river” by Risa Denenberg

“Body of well-known naturalist found in river”

A woman wanders to escape. Her noetic life has dwindled
. . . . . . . .down to grandchildren she never sees and a failure to remember
their names. She retains an ossified memory of the taxonomy of birds,
. . . . . . . .but has lost her car keys for the last time. She miss-mates the buttons
on her flannel jacket. There is no one to straighten it or care,
. . . . . . . .no one to straighten her affairs —

not the trysts of mid-life, but the sort that bury you under piles of junk
. . . . . . . .in your seventies. Physically, she is strong with steady heart
and unburnt lungs; she can hike for hours wielding a hand-carved
. . . . . . . .walking stick, backpack not a burden, canvas for shade or to lie upon,
enough water for a day. She roams the path along the river where she knows
. . . . . . . .the flora and the pitch of bird calls.

The once-weekly chat with her daughter came this morning
. . . . . . . .at ten. She no longer looks forward to these calls, but does her best
to fake it. Pleasantries were tendered and repaid. No hint
. . . . . . . .was given of any plan or prayer. In the river, tiny eyelets open
within eddies as she slides from bank to current with a splash.
. . . . . . . .She is a perfect pear-shaped sea-bound droplet.

by Risa Denenberg

Editor’s note: At first, I balked at noetic (“of or relating to mental activity or the intellect”), but upon further reading, I found some lovely internal rhyme and alliteration in this poem.


11 responses to ““Body of well-known naturalist found in river” by Risa Denenberg”

  1. Steve Bunch Avatar
    Steve Bunch

    This one hits close to home. Especially like “ossified memory” (immediately thinking of MRI images of Alzheimer’s brains).

    1. Christine Klocek-Lim Avatar

      Steve, thanks for reading. I hadn’t thought of MRI images and Alzheimer’s, but that is a great image. My mind jumped to “fossil” after reading “ossified,” as the sounds are similar.

  2. redmitten Avatar

    I’m loving the noetic life. It hints at nomadic and poetic at once, all the while having a specific definition. The sense of a final walkabout carries through this poem. Outstanding poem to kick off this daily project.

    1. Christine Klocek-Lim Avatar

      Thanks for stopping by! I, too, enjoyed the narrative of this poem: it encompasses the life lived, as well as the life ending.

  3. Whit Avatar

    Lovely poem, also pounced on noetic–but more like a raven would a sudden sparkle.

    1. Christine Klocek-Lim Avatar

      Glad you liked it, Whit. And I’m glad “noetic” didn’t keep me from posting this poem.

  4. S. Thomas Summers Avatar

    Sad. Beautiful. Thanks.

    1. Christine Klocek-Lim Avatar

      Thanks for reading. 🙂

  5. Misha Denham Avatar
    Misha Denham

    Remarkably swift current to take one out of the eddies and back into the poised singular direction of the deluge of extracating ones-selves from the tethers that bind, great poem!

  6. erin Avatar

    the irony of the well-known naturalist forgetting much of her life is a sweet beginning for me.

    and then the fruition, the accomplishment of entering the river and becoming a perfect pear-shaped sea-bound droplet!! it’s a life’s ending any of us might hope for.

    1. Risa Denenberg Avatar

      thank you! This was a found poem from a headline that read the same as the title. I always wondered if the naturalist intended to die or if it was an accident. And so a poem began . . .

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