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.