Self-Portrait as Easter Pamphlet on the Door
There is a special night
a thousand nights from this:
I commemorate my annual dying,
when I witnessed myself as a mountain,
a failed Jehovah, no followers.
I’m trying to reach
the congregation inside me: Please
join us for the death! You are welcome
to attend! I’m trying
to remember my giving up:
location, date, and time. Was it
in the meadow by the old school?
Was it April? Were kingdoms
lining the hall to the bathroom,
when on hands and knees
I crawled to the toilet to find
that my cup had not passed, but lived
inside my gut, silver chalice and all?
I forget who witnessed the first time,
who stood in the watch-tower on the hill,
placed a Bible at my feet. I’m trying to believe
I’m the collection to be had:
I’m broken like bread.
I first saw the lights of New York while sitting on his shoulders,
while clinging to his jacket, the windbreaker slipping through
my sweaty little palms. I remember what I used to call him,
a name I haven’t said in 18 years.
And I remember his voice, the way it could fill a room,
his laugh, white teeth, gums pink and clean.
Or how it could carry from the bedroom to the kitchen,
to my mother and her face—
how a voice could create a hurt
I’d grow to recognize. I try to remember
my own face, the one I must’ve made
that August afternoon while watching TV on his bed.
I remember that I showered after, maybe to cleanse
the shock, what a man could do to a child,
unnoticed. Today there is something so vast
about the New York skyline, the sharp
edges of the buildings, the antennas sticking out the top
like great insects I bow down to
while riding the M train to Manhattan.
Or when I turned 26 at the base of the Empire State Building,
decades after the first time I’d seen it
and the feeling felt dangerous
like fleeting joy, like a summer day turned trauma.
Sometimes the things we love most
were shown to us by the people
who caused the most pain. I admit
something was planted in me, a need
to complicate a happiness. I think he taught me that lesson,
from a place so high up, I don’t know how I’d get there
again, how I could possibly touch
the hem of a cloud from here.
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. A graduate of the MFA program at NYU, she is the recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo, Community of Writers, and the Fine Arts Work Center Summer Program. Her poems can be found in Washington Square Review, Bennington Review, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. Her heart is in Brooklyn.