A hybrid memoir and valentine to her firstborn, Letdown encompasses the story of a woman when fertility issues arise at the same time the diagnosis of her son’s autism, complicating motherhood in unexpected ways. Portrays the transcendence found amidst difficulty.
[I checked Kent town records] 1 [At fifteen and a half weeks I experienced] 2 [The mud season sank in after the snow season] 3 [If I had to describe it, I would tell the whole story] 4 5 [They can’t help but make symbols of themselves] 5 [Post-partum, you were an island because you] 6 [Winter Snapshot: the sky is orange and gold] 7 [Late summer and the sun was muscular] 9 [The weather channel runs the local forecast] 10 12 [Frank O’Hara, my sentimental doppelganger] 11 [Anaphylaxis: The shawarma eaters dripped] 12 [The down on your back whorls to the center] 13 [You seized as we crawled through the interchange] 14 [I try to teach you how to blow dandelion parachutes] 15 [We walk the reservoir after dark where a neighbor] 16 [The second time I noticed the preschool teacher] 17 [We search the spring for carnivals] 18 [All I could think about were cells dividing. Clean] 19 [EEG Creation Date: 15:29:39 Aug 23, 2012 I think] 20 [Another heat wave, and succulents send up] 22 [They found the body of the non-verbal boy] 23 [We were waiting in line for another train in Griffith Park] 24 [Some days you serve word salad and long moments] 25 [Today's paper reports a woman rolled] 26 [You drag your leg cast across the living room] 27 [A baby was rolled in to your room. His crib] 28 [Multiple Punctate Bilateral White Matter Lesions.] 29 [Joy is pocket-sized. Like quarter rides.] 30 [In the great green room what he said can’t be taken back] 32 [Your father wanted me to say we made the decision] 33 [Focal: That sweet unguent glue of hose water] 34 [After the procedure, they give young women] 35 [Focal, local, multiple occurrences: Running] 36 [They’re slip-ons with three elastics] 37 [Your Psychological Evaluation: a four-year-old Caucasian boy] 38 [At your swim school fountains burble, lilies bloom] 39 [Miscarriage happens [x] percent of the time] 40 [You continue to try and understand words] 41 [According to the newsletter I signed up for,] 42 [Déjà vu was the same bright red gem of blood] 43 [Someone says to me this is really about shame,] 44 [We’re at the zoo where the Los Angeles sun] 45 [At the aquarium, we head to the garden eels] 47 [You say I don’t want to calm down, I want to calm up.] 48 [We pressed our way through faux Kahlos] 49 [The small print on your pill bottle: Side-Effects:] 50 [Side Effects: I keep trying to tether you since] 51 [Side Effects: We're titrating up one medication] 52 [The bland face of the fertility doctor smiles up] 53 [At the human development exhibit the eleven vats] 54 [Sunday evening, and the days have gotten longer] 55 [Your favorite song is Water and your girl is Sarah] 56 [A flip book of your years gone is history never] 57 [I feel bad for kids unfortunate enough] 58 [We were deep into the plush monotony] 59
“With Letdown, Sonia Greenfield proves herself a master of the prose poem, finding just the right metaphor, just the right syntax. This book-length sequence reads like a love story between a mother and her son, and like all love stories—all the true ones, anyway—there is pain alongside the joy. Greenfield takes us down into the dark, confronting what it is to feel helpless against your child’s suffering, to mother a child with special needs, to recalibrate one’s life after loss. But she also leads us back into bright California sunlight, where we find the boy—and this messy life—rising from the depths, ‘buoyant, better than expected.’ ”
—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones
“Beautifully constructed in sixty stand-alone parts, this book-length poem presents—artfully, honestly—a woman’s difficult parsing of motherhood. We first meet her in the hospital suite, the careful birth-plan abandoned, as it was as effective as ‘closing a sliding door on a tsunami.’ Later, we follow her confusion and terror through her son’s autism diagnosis; during the EEG test, she distracts him as wires are gelled to his head, saying, ‘Look, now you get to become a robot.’ Her son’s traumatic medical journey is detailed alongside her hidden trauma, fertility loss. Sonia Greenfield has used her excellent ear and metaphorical power to create a moving and necessary book.”
—Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs