3.06 Ars Poetica with a Galaxy in It

Diannely Antigua

I wonder how it starts: maybe with a mouth and forgetting what I wanted to say, the repetition, teeth and tongue clicking to an unknown song of electric heat. So I breathe the measure of a memoir into my lungs—the cycle of birth to death living in my nostrils, remembering the night we met, smoking outside that bodega on Franklin, how I held the cigarette all wrong, and you didn’t laugh; or when you blew kisses to the golden retriever as we walked to your apartment, mouth forming a perfect ring as your gap teeth scraped gently against your bottom lip. I want to believe that was a modulation of tenderness, like a neon OPEN sign still buzzing its frequency into the darkness, how you placed my hand in your glove so we could still feel each other’s skin while protected from the cold. I wonder how it starts: maybe with lingering eyes, that peculiar science of stretched time, how quiet and charged the blue of your eyes met mine. And then the music blaring from the passing car: What is love, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, how you kissed me as the car turned the corner, the rest of Brooklyn swallowing no more. And I try to remember the rapture, hands raised to receive an ascension so holy, how naked God looked in that moment, stripped down to his Hanes boxers. There are prayers said for moments like these—a Hail Mary, an Our Father, Dear Jesus, perhaps. And I whispered them to you, curtains open, porn playing on your projector screen. I wonder how it ends: my grandmother used to tell a funny story about an old couple who were so poor that between them they only owned one pair of dentures, and as a result would always know what the other ate that day. Is that how it ends, one set of teeth between us, two bodies whittled down to pieces we use to make one body that still works. Or is this how it ends, your teeth white as the moon and still not mine. If I could become as wide as a planet, a Pluto even, now not a planet, or never really was, but determined to be named so for 50 years. Maybe in another dimension this isn't a poem about loss. If I could be left misunderstood. If I could become a gravity worth giving in to.


Being bilingual, I found this act of translation to be both familiar and foreign. I was raised understanding that the weight of the same word might be heavier in one language versus the other, often the Spanish carrying so much more history than the English equivalent. To me, there is no such thing as ‘exact translation.’ Language is nuanced, and so is art, each medium a different dialect of a similar sentiment. In the video ‘Body Seeking Body,’ I was immediately drawn to the overwhelming feeling of otherworldliness present, whether alien or spiritual. I felt drawn to this need to connect with another, something that is often the subject of many of my poems, this reaching well beyond the socially acceptable expectations of human need. I was especially drawn to the mouth, the inaudible repetition, an incantation to conjure the connection with another. And isn’t that how most connections begin, with a mouth? A smile in your direction, a frown, or a longing. And then the ultimate connection, intimacy in all of its forms, to share one’s mouth and body, truly a seeking and pulling another towards it, sometimes an inescapable gravitational force. Since no transmission of information exists in a vacuum, I brought my own experience to this quest of seeking, memories of my body in love with another body, the music that played, the shape of a beloved’s mouth. I confess, I fall in and out of love with mouths daily. And this practice of translation reminded me of that fixation, an ars poetica, a reverence for the portal where words exist.
—Diannely Antigua


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 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. Website

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