In Their Own Words

Diannely Antigua on “Something Dies in Me Every Month”

Diannely Antigua standing on busy city street

Something Dies in Me Every Month

Today I screenshot a picture
of an internet baby who looks like my ex
sleeping, mouth open, little fist above his head,
and it's a tiny poison in my
eggs, how we can be allergic
to whatever we want, a week in bruises, or
when I said sorry to my face
like the time I stopped
breathing and a man called me
a name, something less than animal but more than
stone, and all I can say is
I'm trying to be decent, I'm trying
to believe in the therapy of sweeping rooms, of sugar
on my wrists. Yesterday I bought
fried chicken and orange juice
for a homeless man on 6th
to make myself needed and the act
conjured a weirdness in me, like wanting to have
his baby. I don't want to be told
about the bitches inside me that want out
and want the pleasure of watching my body
do things without permission. Or maybe
I have an awkward courage, or maybe I've hugged
too many grocery bags on walks home and felt
the lonely power of feeding myself, or how
the moon appears
even in the morning, a pale thing
drowned in blue sky.

On "Something Dies in Me Every Month"

I often think about breath, or rather the moments that seemingly take away my ability to do what my body does naturally without conscious effort—a kiss, a car accident, a panic attack—my breath compromised for a duration of time, the raspy effort to regain what was lost.

And I can't help but think about another process my body has done naturally since I was 11—releasing an egg to the outside world every month. Those first few years my body was meek, only to grow stubborn, louder, stronger.

Which then brings me to the moment when breath and blood seem so crucially intertwined, when they are shared with another living thing. To say pregnancy fascinates me is an understatement. In truth, it mystifies me, enchants me, consumes me. I am not a mother. But I am certain that a mother lives in me, my feverish need to nurture, yet in turn an equally feverish need to be nurtured.

I remember when I was 16-years-old, my school went on a field trip to the Museum of Science in Boston. At some point I wandered to the exhibit about human life, the interactive display of the fetus in chronological stages of development all in disarray from the previous tour group. Before catching up with my classmates, a video caught my eye. It was of a midwife, in a tub, but she was the one in labor this time. And no midwife was assisting her. She delivered her own baby while surrounded by family, her other small children in the background chasing each other, unaffected by the scene. But I stayed and watched as she caught the newborn, the water cloudy with the life it brought. I couldn't help but admire her body, wish it for myself one day, how her blood and breath knew what to do.

I wrote "Something Dies in Me Every Month" while sitting outside my favorite cafe in Bushwick on one of the first warm days of spring. Originally, I intended it to be a poem about breath, limiting myself to one long sentence, embodying in its form true breathlessness. But as I continued to write, the breathlessness became an exercise on revealing my desperation, this wanting a body to perform motherhood (the purest relationship I can imagine to one's breath) only to be reminded of failure—the first sign of blood, the lack of a partner, the struggle to provide.

I recall my time living in New York as the years of keen observation. Everything struck me. Everything mattered. And everything needed care—the streets, the pigeons, the people—and my heart grew (how truly Whitmanian of me). But I was still learning how to take care of myself, how to treat my once cut wrists kindly, how to harness the power and privilege that came with being able to walk home with a bag full of groceries.

To fully understand this desperation, it's important to note that as a person with both medical and mental health conditions, a potential pregnancy could lead me down a complicated path. I've had to reckon with this polarization, an increasing desire to carry a child and the understanding that it might never be within my grasp. As every day I hear more news about reproductive rights being challenged, I fear for my body and of those who have the ability to conceive. I cannot live a healthy existence without choice. My desire and my politics are not in conflict with one another but come from the same breath.

And every month I hold it, my breath. Once the first day of my period landed on a Mother's Day, somehow both a generous and cruel joke to play on my body, blood staining the dress I wore to celebrate my own mother. I mourned at how my womb was swept clean, getting ready for the next egg.

And every month, I do indeed have the awkwardest courage, what a gift it is to be ruled by the moon, such majesty, how it swells pregnant with love, even in the morning sky, an apparition of white in all the blue.

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