Cul-de-sac by Risa Denenberg


The doe slept on my lawn again this morning,
having shooed her spotted twins to glean their own pastures.
I studied my unshorn yard, my habitat, the dewy grass—
having shooed my own featherless from the nest long ago.

Seemed a quiet morning. Fog rolling in across the bay.
Tomato plants showing off new yellow buds. There were eggs
for breakfast, the chickens rustling in their pen.
My toast dry, my coffee black. Someday
I will mow this rowdy yard, coax my neighbors to speak
to me again. I stopped by to check on him, my usual, bearing eggs.
The one I call uncle on this friendless cul-de-sac.

Change rustled the page for a moment, a blustery warning.
By the time they carried his body to the curb with flashing lights,
neighbors had rushed into the street: shoeless, tank tops, bathrobes.
A dog licked my shin. A girl I’d never seen before rambled on
about how he owed her something.

I gave my name to the cop.
I told the story start to finish:
I checked for pulse, for breaths. My lips on his.
I counted one, two, three, all the way to thirty.

They turned off the flashers, pulled the sheet.

by Risa Denenberg

Twitter: @risaden

Editor’s note: This poem lures the reader inside the narrative with calm imagery and the speaker’s quiet lawn rebellion until halfway through, when everything crystallizes into a sharp, piercing moment of clarity.


One response to “Cul-de-sac by Risa Denenberg”

  1. richardsund Avatar

    A beautiful and profound poem. Captures how it is when a major crisis hits the everyday in life. Witnessed this professionally as Psych.Crisis RN in ER’s, but also the night my father died suddenly, and the Police called me to ask me to come asap- only 5 minutes going through one red light.

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