Diannely Antiqua, United States

As I watch a man steal fruit on the corner
of Myrtle Ave and Broadway, I want to know

what to do with the memory, days of the week
underwear, the hand cupping the small cones

over my grey t-shirt, feeling
for the raised tip, pink eraser bud not yet

brown. I try to remember what was on TV,
my sister’s back to us, her flipping the channels, the screen

turning black for a second in between Fox News, This Old House,
and Wishbone. Maybe he touched me to reruns

of The Brady Bunch, how I never trusted the father
in a room with them, the girls, especially

Cindy with the blonde pigtails, her blue stare like knowing
her weight, light enough to hold down

with just a forearm. It didn’t matter that it was a Tuesday
in August, he played with the planets on the edge

of my cotton briefs, the rings of Saturn
for Saturday. Mars was for Tuesdays.

Mars was for Wednesday mornings and sometimes
Wednesday afternoons before someone told me

to shower. Mars was for spilled Hawaiian punch
on Jupiter, or laundry days on Mercury.

Mars was for me and the mirror,
when I’d push aside the fabric and see the sprouts

of fuzz, black stubble of strawberry
in the thief’s hand, rubbing the skin with a dry

finger, how hungry to steal just one.
The melons would have told, I’m sure.

Author Statement

For almost two decades, I had been trying to write a poem about my sexual abuse trauma, but it was difficult for me to access the part of my brain that could write about this topic in a “poetic” way. I often found myself very much the little girl again, frozen and unable to speak. My poem “Picked” starts with a random observation: “As I watch a man steal fruit on the corner/ of Myrtle Ave and Broadway,” because I did indeed witness a man stealing fruit from Mr. Kiwi’s fruit stand on my walk home from the subway one day after work. I quickly wrote it down in my notes, never imagining this would be my way into writing the poem. But this is how I live my life: perpetually writing down observations because I know this is how my poems are born. When I sat down to write with this particular observation in mind, I didn’t know at first where I would be headed. Trauma often works this way: something small, something seemingly innocent can bring it all back, leaving me feeling out of control. But by choosing my own triggering entrance, I had control of the narrative. Though I could not change the past, I was gifting myself the agency to explore it on my terms. Using an external event outside my trauma felt like a safer approach in which to discuss it. As I started writing, I was surprised at the connections I discovered between the memory and witnessing this small theft of the strawberry. Was I just a “small theft” to my abuser? I would never know the answer to that question, but it was a question that still required my investigation. As a survivor, what could I do with this memory? And what was my responsibility to my present self and the little girl? It was an important part of my healing process to write this poem, as both the poet and the survivor. I could not separate the two. So I created a space in which both could be present, a space in which language and truth both mattered. Diannely Antigua’s book Ugly Music, can be purchased at the following links:


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