Let Me Begin Again
after Levine’s poem of the same name
It isn’t that I was pure because I hadn’t bled; it’s that
the world’s filth hadn’t rubbed off on me yet as I brushed
alongside it, a pale eyelet dress smudged against a vehicle’s
accumulation of grime. Then my cunt filled with rust
the same year men started following me around in their cars,
and someone in Chicago filled Tylenol capsules with cyanide.
The same year a girl my age swallowed one and died.
Then the flow came unbidden, Buicks and Camaros boxing
me in, and for forty years my ovaries ejected their seeds
like ruby morsels from the otherwise pith of the pomegranate.
For forty years, the filth of the world my body bled for—
but what is pure? I confess even God washed away
in a tsunami, bits of him tangled in the salt-ruined palms,
beaches scrubbed of children and holy vestiges while fish
deposited on the second floor of the ocean-blasted resort
gasped in disbelief. We always recall the first blush
of the death of childhood. Red seeping into the seams
of our jeans in study hall, in science class, in the backseat
of that Buick. You could say that with every egg sloughed
in a slurry of blood, a little innocence dripped away. Forty years
and a drawer full of underwear ruddy in the crotch, but I think
I could be done with gore. Gone dry. Sometimes those eggs
became our children we thought might be the generation
without war, and sometimes we want to label an ending
as a new start. Sometimes we want to mistake a palimpsest
of memoir for a blank slate. Let me begin again, fresh
out of hemorrhage, and ready to nestle a full drawer
of white cotton panties against the lavender sachet
like the sweet scent of rebirth, all of it
unsullied by what I can’t unknow.
Sonia Greenfield (she/they) is the author of Letdown (White Pine Press, 2020) and Boy with a Halo at the Farmer's Market (Codhill Poetry Prize, 2015). Her chapbook, American Parable, won the 2017 Autumn House Press chapbook prize. Her forthcoming chapbook, Helen of Troy is High AF (Harbor Editions, 2023), and third full-length collection, All Possible Histories (Riot in Your Throat, 2022) are forthcoming. She lives with her family in Minneapolis where she teaches at Normandale College, edits Rise Up Review, and advocates for both neurodiversity and the decentering of the cis/het white hegemony. More at soniagreenfield.com.