In My Exam Room

by Risa Denenberg

About the author:

Risa Denenberg is an aging hippie living a solitary life in the Pacific Northwest. She has worked in health care for more than 35 years as an RN and nurse practitioner, always choosing to work in “the cracks in the system” including HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and palliative and hospice care.  Many of the poems in this collection were written while working with chronic pain patients in a large family practice clinic.

An avid reader of poetry, Denenberg has also written poems all of her adult life. Most of her writing comes from a need to understand and witness suffering and to acknowledge aging, pain, illness, and death.

Denenberg is a moderator at The Gazebo, an online poetry board; reviews poetry for the American Journal of Nursing; and is an editor at Headmistress Press, dedicated to publishing lesbian poetry. She is the author of two chapbooks and one full length poetry collection: what we owe each other (The Lives You Touch Publications), 2013, blinded by clouds (Hyacinth Girls Press, 2014), and Mean Distance from the Sun (Aldrich Press, 2013).

What people are saying:

From the thought-provoking depiction of anxiety of “In exam room 1” to the poignant extended metaphor of “Lumberjacks” and the grim verisimilitude of “Pain Scale” and “Prognosis,” Denenberg’s poems offer an intimate, moving and always satisfying glimpse into the art of healing and the struggle to become well. With their engaging subject matter, rich, vibrant language and clever tropes, the poems in In My Exam Room make for a satisfying read.

James S. Wilk, M.D., author of The Seven-Year Night: Poems of the Medical Training Experience


In My Exam Room would be a good read for all health care professionals as well as the public. As a reader we are reminded that pain is ours to endure in some form or other. Sometimes we are the walking well and not yet wounded; the concept of pain has not yet entered our vocabulary. Further we are reminded that pain is part of life — that pain does not always mean suffering.

Judy Schaefer, RN, MA,
Poetry Co-Editor - PULSE Magazine

$15 US
Chapbook - 29 poemsChapbooks.html

Table of Contents

The chronically well

In exam room 1


In exam room 3


In exam room 2

In exam room 5

When I'm not thinking about my patients

The night was long with pain

Pain Scale

In exam room 4

Chronic Pain


What pain means to me

Lives of elders

A Plea for Touch

We do not speak of death

I first saw cancer

On the morning of the second day


Lessons for dying

As death approaches

Hours to days

Going first

“Even the gorgeous royal chariots wear out”

“After a long battle”

Three-Part Breath

Elegy on the mourning of my death

About a Lump

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The Lives You Touch Publications

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