May 12, 2020

Sonia Greenfield


—The Guardian, Friday, May 1, 2020

hey eels aka carpet of
writhing grass aka sinews
of sea floor aka silver speckled
& smiling sand spitters

the world has gone
bonkers & even humans
can forget humans exist like
that tiny grandmother whose

white hair looked like a moon
jelly bobbing in the dry
ocean on the other side of
your glass she’s gone now &

the nurse in subtidal scrubs
that soothing blue is gone too
hey eels we have a sickness
rippling through this sea

of humanity so I’m taking
a Zoom meeting with you can’t
roll up to your window & smile
back can’t be jostled by

a family of seven edging
me away from my vantage that’s
how we are we humans we’re
just like animals hey eels I like

how you duck into your home
in the sand how you suck
yourself into your safe space
and now humans are doing that

too sucking into our safe
spaces & shrinking away from
faces coming too close
which is to say I’m just like

you hey eels beyond your
invisible walls beyond the four
walls beyond your aquarium
beyond the teeming of Tokyo

I hear wildlife is reclaiming
its spaces that pumas wander
the streets that waterways are
becoming more uncluttered by

the detritus of human indifference
hey eels every time I would take
my son to see you he would sit
by your side & I think he saw

something of himself in the way
you’re alone in your hole & in
the fear that guides your hiding
hey eels it’s where we all are now

from Poets Respond
May 12, 2020


Sonia Greenfield: “I suppose, to a certain extent, even humans forget other humans exist.” (web)

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February 9, 2020

Sonia Greenfield


In the afterlife, all the recipients
ride the same cloud in heaven,
their medals like halos
strung around their necks, their halos
like reflections of golden
medals against mist. Rosa and Georgia
and Harvey and Cesar, beatific—
how they hang their heads
over the edge and whisper
to each other about the newcomers
with medals still fixed over hearts gone
as quiet as a shock jock
in hospice. In heaven, your feet
are never cold, you sleep in sheets
like cream pressed thin and still
warm from ironing, and your lungs
become two aquariums swirling
with neon tetras or whatever
illuminated fish you prefer,
and why not? Let’s make it as lovely
as we can. Let’s fake it until we’re
so full of belief that even those recipients
peering over the edge—Martin and Helen
and Elie and Nelson—think the next one
might be redeemed after all. His desperate
prayers rise up and are collected in a can
like f-bombs in a swear jar brought to God
who shakes it and shakes it until the rattle
strikes the right atonement. Such fantasies
the sight of paradise can produce!
He’s so close to the end now they can
practically smell his imminent arrival.

from Poets Respond
February 9, 2020


Sonia Greenfield: “Like many others, I was flabbergasted to hear that Rush Limbaugh received the Medal of Freedom. He received it, I assume, because he’s dying. I then imagined how he would be received by prior recipients, and that’s how this poem came about. I don’t particularly believe in heaven, but it’s a pretty fantasy.” (web)

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June 12, 2018

Sonia Greenfield


I can’t claim to know why,
but for me it was circumstantial—
hormone dump after miscarriage
plus my only child’s diagnosis

had my drunk face lit by a screen
detailing ways to jettison this failure
of a body. And because I could not
believe in God, I harbored no notion

I would still get to see that child
as a man, so here I am. It was that
and the instinct for preservation,
instinct to stay, o please stay. Don’t

say these are dark days, they are
no worse than windows of a copy store
plastered with missing person’s posters
that Christmas after 9/11, no sadder

than thousands of Teddy Bears sent
to Newtown. I think too much
already about how each day leaches
a little magic and how my son

won’t watch a video of lava rolling
down a hill because he’s afraid
to see people die when yesterday
he knew it only as a slow pour of fire.

For him, I will always stay longer.
I will climb hand-over-hand this
failed body up the side of a hill,
or I will hang a bird feeder.

And when the wren with the red head
comes to feed, I will ask myself
red like what? then try to come up
with something better than blood.

from Poets Respond
June 12, 2018


Sonia Greenfield: “It’s always a shock to hear of someone’s suicide—in this case, Bourdain’s. We always want to know why, as if some sort of knowing would make sense of it; however, suicide is such a deeply personal choice, and most deeply personal choices can’t be made sense of even with the people we’re close to. I know many of us have thought of it, which makes Bourdain’s death feel a little more intimate.” (web)

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August 8, 2017

Sonia Greenfield


Do you work out? Because I’ve seen a lot of flexing
going on in state houses while the rest of us
are just trying to figure out what to feed our kids
when they want nothing but pizza, so we come up
with novel ways to pair bread and cheese as if
we’re fooling ourselves into thinking it’s not pizza.
Do you like cheese? My son likes string cheese best,
Manchego second, and sharp cheddar at a distant third.
I would be happy to feel your biceps if it would mean
endless bomb-free days of incognito pizza. Do you think
your ego is more Maine Coon in that it’s big and plush
or is it more Siamese in that it is almost slick to the touch
and likes to talk loudly in the middle of the night
while you’re trying to sleep? If you want I will stroke
your ego until it purrs if you put away your pet
submarine. I saw that picture of you posing
with your warhead, and I really like your fur hat
but was a little surprised to see that nuclear annihilation
could be wrapped in a package that looks like a prismatic ball
meant to turn and toss reflected red spotlights
all over a club floor. Do you like to disco? My son
likes to play freeze dance at summer camp to songs
by Lady Gaga. I know under your double-breasted
khaki coat a heart beats same as mine. Do you like
children? My son has a beauty mark next to his mouth
and eyelashes every lady says she want to steal.
He is made of cameo pink incandescence and clumsy
grace. I can feel his guileless heart hammer through
the thin wall of his chest which can’t be much different
than your daughter’s delicate ribs wrapping around her motor
as a hand cups a flame to keep it from blowing out.

from Poets Respond


Sonia Greenfield: “In the news this week were several stories about North Korea’s missiles and nuclear aspirations. One wonders whether such stories are meant to elicit fear with their doomsday scenarios or whether they are meant to inform us of a true threat. Either way, the rest of us, the citizens in our homes—presumably in either country—are just trying to keep our children alive.” (web)

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December 11, 2016

Sonia Greenfield


I have been that young, that electrified
by the bohemian scene of a city spilling its lights
all around me. I have been to parties
in sketchy spaces where painters have work
on the walls that should be seen by millions
but is seen by the few of us figuring out
who we’re going to fuck after too much cheap wine
drunk from plastic tumblers, figuring out
how we’re going to make it a country’s width away
from families, struck out on our own
like explorers getting comfortable with being alone
in a wilderness that is actually just a room
rented in a house of strangers. I have been
that woman high on E, my eyes doll-dark, jaw
clenched, body ready to swallow pleasure
in a million lusty gulps. I know any space we inhabit
can become a ghost ship. I have read enough
to know stories of wildfires, of boats found
empty, of the soul yanked whole-cloth from
its innocent wearer. But you can’t live in fear
of the apparition, the adventurers afloat on
their rickety structure and cast to a sea
of flames. It can happen at any time to anyone,
so when music flares up and takes a hold of you,
when a swirl of colored spot lights sets you
spinning, you have to dance as if
the very act of living depends on it.

from Poets Respond
December 11, 2016

[download audio]


Sonia Greenfield: “When I read of the ‘Ghost Ship’ fire in Oakland at the artists’ warehouse, and I read of the individuals who were lost in the fire, I realized how much those people were like me twenty years ago, trying to make it in the Bay Area, in love with life on my own and the creativity and melodrama of being young in the city. Besides the years between us—the then and now—the only thing that separates them from me is chance: my luck and their misfortune. It’s a terrible story and too true in terms of how fate works.” (website)

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April 17, 2016

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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September 14, 2014

Sonia Greenfield


Out like what? Whispers
in a tin can tied with yarn
a thousand miles long
to the can of a woman, her
ear desperately pressed
to its emptiness? Like a loon’s
song transmitted by Morse?
Can you fathom the miles
of murky ocean that whale
must sing through? Did you know
some people believe
all sounds ever made
are still present, hovering
like butterflies? Even, say, the whir
of a copy machine out there
in the ether, sent flying
when the first plane hit? Do you see
voices as monarch wings
wheeling through the sky?
If you shout from the window
of a thousand-foot tower
before you fall, where does
that scrap of voice go? Is it still
falling? You mean go out
like candles snuffed by the wind?
You mean out like empathy
in tiny increments marching
like ants made of sound
across the wires of the world?
Did she just hear an Our Father
whiz past? I’m sorry, I’m sorry,
she said. I think you’re
breaking up.

from Poets Respond
September 14, 2014


Sonia Greenfield: “This poem is in response to the ongoing statements between Stephen Sotloff’s family and the White House, but it is also a response to the pat use of this phrase, which I heard uttered on CNN on the 13th anniversary of 9/11. Mostly it’s about the inadequacy of platitudes to soothe those who are grieving as a result of tragedy, and this week’s news seemed rife with it.” (web)

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