“From Nigeria to New Zealand” by Sonia Greenfield

Sonia Greenfield


So men with Kalashnikovs
red eyes and hand-rolled
cigarettes strap bombs under

the veils of girls as young as eight,
send them into the center of town.
Detonate. But those girls, their

girl faces, girl knees, and girl
dreams wasted are not mine
to plug into a poem about disgust

here on the coast of California
where I lick and lick and lick
the paws of my poet sadness.

Instead, consider the octopus
who escaped the ugly nubs
of human noses pressed to his tank

and the pits of their pink mouths
against his glass. He’s mine.
Under ink cloak of night, lid off,

slime coat pulled close over all
eight flowing shoulders, down
the drain he split. Fuck

this noise, he said, to canned
clams and human cruelties
before suckering out to sea.

Poets Respond
April 17, 2016

[download audio]


Sonia Greenfield: “I wanted to write about these young girls being blown up, because poetry is how I try to work through hurtful things that confound me. I’m a mother, and my mind goes to a dark place when I consider the basest level of human cruelty as it relates to children. But I also don’t feel that these tragedies belong to me, a white woman living in a coastal town of California, remote from what has been unfolding in Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon. What do I know of them? To get the details right, I would have to go there—if not physically, then at least metaphorically—which means combing through images to approximate a reality of which I have little insight, and besides being afraid of what I might see, it feels like too much appropriation. But Inky the octopus, on the other hand, I can tell his story. After all, it’s about escaping the human realm, which, in light of our follies, seems like a pretty smart move. Well-played, Inky.” (website)

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