Making Something of Shame

by | Dec 15, 2022 | Poetry

Making Something of Shame by Sonia Greenfield

With the first, functionally illiterate
_____and missing teeth, air scented with
the smell of burnt crack, I felt it. Hard even
_____to face down what I opened myself to
at fifteen, to speak it in a poem. Down
_____at the riverfront, my mind stuck through
with the electrified arrows of PCP, and all
_____the people I surrounded myself with
walking like zombies too young to be so
_____undead already and wavering before
all the wavering willow trees. Then the next,
_____too dumb and cruel to know how
he needed to be saved. The third like
_____the mutt in the shelter backed against
the tile wall, all snarl and saliva. Each the progeny
_____of abuse and then abusers—how I was
used and used again by all of them. I could
_____tell you stories, but here: [                    ]—
the redacted facts, too sordid even for a poem
_____about it. Never mind the guidebook
that I got from my mother led me down
_____dead-end alleys, always directed me
to the worst kind of neighborhoods: I blamed
_____myself. It can be hard to examine:
you might want to hold it up to the light,
_____but the tender pads of your fingertips
cannot handle its sharp angles no matter how
_____gingerly you grasp it. My grace is
to brush the granulated glass from its surface
_____and let the blood flow. What I hold then
is a kinder truth: all I ever wanted was to unearth
_____potential, to make poems of everything
ugly, like even these monstrous men, all probably
_____dead now. I like to think I saw
something in them no one else could see.

Photo by T.L. Woods, used and adapted under CC.

About The Author


Sonia Greenfield (she/they) is the author of two new collections of poetry, All Possible Histories (Riot in Your Throat, December 2022) and Helen of Troy is High AF (Harbor Editions, January 2023). She is the author of Letdown (White Pine Press), American Parable (Autumn House) and Boy with a Halo at the Farmer’s Market (Codhill Press). Her work has appeared in the 2018 and 2010 Best American Poetry, Southern Review, Willow Springs and elsewhere. She lives in Minneapolis where she teaches at Normandale College, edits the Rise Up Review, and advocates for neurodiversity and the decentering of the cis/het white hegemony.