by Diannely Antigua
after Ocean Vuong/ after Roger Reeves/ after Frank O’Hara
This isn’t an apology but rather a confession:
I loved your body before I was born.
I counted your future fingers and toes, touched
your hands before they ever touched another’s, my left
in your right, and we slept in the womb that exists
before wombs, mouth pressed over mouth,
a position I’d learn to crave.
I loved your body before I was born and
hated your body after my first gasp of rusted air, after
hearing your shriek match my own. Perhaps I hated your body
because of what you could do to another body—
opened it, not a wound but a portal—
and the permission you took
I then took, 16 years waiting, took a steak knife
to your wrists, drew striped doors,
and the red entered the room.
Once I opened all the pill bottles,
left them on the dresser, watched you—
one, two, three pills at a time—
swallow them in front of the mirror,
reflection slipping into bed after,
into the little trap I’d set. Only twenty minutes
had passed when they found you, strapped
your arms to the gurney,
and I hid under the sheets where I’d held you
moments before, told you the story of Little Red Riding Hood,
as you closed your eyes. I’d like to say
I stopped there. A year later I tried it again, ritual
of pills and mirror and bed, and now the story
of the brown babies, all lost before they were lost.
And you wept as I held you once more, understood
this was my task all along, to kill. And what a love to give
into my violence, your breath weaker, diaphragm
lulled to sleep. How could I not pity you, dear one,
how could I not wipe the spittle from your lips, dial
three numbers. They saved
you again. And you didn’t blame me when asked, called
your assassin a name you’d read once in a book about death,
and I thanked you in time,
and in time, I hope to stop trying,
or in time I imagine you’ll grow strong,
grab me by the throat, close
a portal perhaps, and I’ll forgive you.
Diannely Antigua is a Dominican American poet and educator, born and raised in Massachusetts. Her debut collection Ugly Music (YesYes Books, 2019) was the winner of the Pamet River Prize and a 2020 Whiting Award. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts Lowell where she won the Jack Kerouac Creative Writing Scholarship and received her MFA at NYU where she was awarded a Global Research Initiative Fellowship to Florence, Italy. She is the recipient of additional fellowships from CantoMundo, Community of Writers, and the Fine Arts Work Center Summer Program. Her work has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her poems can be found in Washington Square Review, Bennington Review, The Adroit Journal, Cosmonauts Avenue, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. Her heart is in Brooklyn.