Sunday May 26

Diannely Antigua Diannely Antigua is a Dominican American poet and educator, born and raised in Massachusetts. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts Lowell where she won the Jack Kerouac Creative Writing Scholarship. She is currently an MFA candidate at New York University and an Associate Poetry Editor for BOAAT. A Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the Bodega Poetry Contest, her work appears or is forthcoming in Cosmonauts Avenue, Reservoir, Day One, Vinyl, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn.

Why I Write: Diannely Antigua

I often say I write because I have to, that I know no other way to live. And it’s true in some regard. I can’t walk around Brooklyn without wanting to make everything I see into a poem. But before poetry found me, (because I honestly believe it found me) I wrote in a diary every day. It started when I was 9 years old after my sister gave me a diary for Christmas. My diaries became a place of refuge from a world I didn’t know how to live in. I grappled with trauma and mental illness in the midst of a strict religious system. Writing was a temporary respite. I could call the diary mine. I didn’t have to prove myself as a worthy believer of anything other than the words I wrote. When poetry finally came along, I was already used to the practice of trusting language. I was receptive to its doctrine—the gift to follow and break and make new rules. I think my subconscious is always looking for a new cult to latch onto. So far poetry has been the answer, a foundational part of my spirituality, a healthier version of “cult.” To me, poetry is religion.


It was August in Canada
when it happened.
They told me if I prayed, it would come

like a flame on my tongue.
I was ten. Almost eleven.
I want to say I remember the smell

of the sisters, their breaths in my ear as they prayed
little wails, placed their hands on my back,
on my pink flowered dress.

I want to say I was sweating
as the beads turned white on my skin,
toes slick, slipping in my heels.

I want to say I got the Holy Ghost
to a Vertical Horizon song, not
the guitar, not the singers in the sanctuary.

Maybe it was the “Best I Ever Had,”
Walkman low on batteries,
still on the ride from Haverhill.

I want to say I was crying about a boy,
or about the hole
in my nylons or my dirty

City Sneaks. I want to understand
why my tongue moved and a voice came out
and the voice said nothing

like something important,
maybe shamalashamala

And maybe that meant Save me, or
Leave me, or maybe it was
Make me disappear.


I will confess to everything:

I will confess I couldn’t find
the Sargento cheese at Shaw’s last week,
that my December romances have been equal to
putting my lips where they don’t belong.

I will commit to the smell
of the old t-shirt one Santa left for me.
Last Thursday, he slept on the floor,
his body another ensemble
of serpent and noodle wrapped in a sleeping bag.

When I say that to create and destroy a second
is to measure the funny noise of existence,

I might be lying.

I saw one of my Santas in a music video.
He made snow angels and hung mistletoe
above the bathroom door.
Through the screen I said
come to hell with me ,
said that I could be a random act
of kindness, that there is
an unnameable accident in my limbs.
Then I showed him my altar and my little fists.
I beat my body

like forty men.


The year the World Trade Center is bombed,
he wants to kiss me one last time.
I’m worth five minutes, I’m worth

mixing certain drugs. It’s a long time
to sit behind the gingerbread door,
to own a sin like a steady stream

of urine on a stick. I’m trying to re-explain
perversion. It responds to a name I read
in a book about eviction. There were ten beds
in the basement. I am the only piece of furniture
to survive.


In the middle of her forehead
between her brows, my mother
placed a piece of scotch tape,

to keep from furrowing,
from wrinkles, from expressing
anything other than joy.

Once I taped down my eyelids
so I could stop seeing him. He wasn’t
my father, but shared her queen bed,

had arguments about remotes.
The day of his brain surgery,
my mother cried. I was playing

with Barbie dolls, cutting their limbs,
poking them with sewing pins.
My brother shaved their heads.

Then I sliced open soft skulls
like I’d done this before, like scissors
breaking through the skin of a diabetic toe.

On their wedding day, on the top stair,
I don’t know what my stepfather yelled.
But I tried to hold my mother back.

I was too small. She followed him down
the hallway, to the bedroom,
petticoat rustling behind her.