The character for bone / by Risa Denenberg
The teacher draws Chinese characters on the chalkboard
to show how two trees become a forest. The student
looks up the character for bone. Chalk is a soft white
limestone composed of the shells of foraminifers.
An infant grabs the bars of her crib to pull herself up
to look for her mother. I bring medication to my patient
who tells me she hopes to die today. An Afghani schoolgirl
covers her head and walks to the schoolhouse
with the broken windows. She tells her teacher she hopes
to become a doctor. The incoming tide hits the shore gently.
I think how much we’ve lost without these characters
to speak for us. The girl on the radio is singing
“my body’s in trouble”. I wonder if I will die alone.
Foraminifers are single-celled amoebae. Branches
barely move in the humid haze of noon. A boy stops
wordlessly in front of a seated girl. I check my email
every ten minutes, hoping you are OK. The foramen ovale
is a hole in the heart of a newborn that must close at birth.