I was ten years old when I read about the boy

whose mother drowned in the ocean.


It was in the Scholastic News—

the aluminum boat leaving Cuba,


the shipwreck, the 10 more dead with her,

the boy floating on an inner tube until rescued by fishermen.


His face was on the front page of the magazine

and I wanted to kiss his paper cheek. His name


is Elián and today he turns 23.

My mother shows me a picture


of his mother. She is beautiful in the way

all mothers were in the 90s—


all bangs, high-waisted jersey shorts.

And I don’t know what it is to lose a mother


yet. I won’t see her scoop water from a sinking boat.

My mother came here


on a plane and I thank a god. A different

island, a different year, a baby girl,


not me, in her arms.

Elián went back to Cuba.


And I have never visited the island I’m from.

And I feel like a bitch.


Because all I did was read a story

Then retell it on this page.



Diannely Antigua is a Dominican American poet and educator, born and raised in Massachusetts. She is currently an MFA candidate at New York University, a Squaw Valley Community of Writers fellow, and Associate Poetry Editor for BOAAT. Her book Ugly Music, forthcoming from YesYes Books, was chosen for the 2017 Pamet River Prize. Winner of the Bodega Poetry Contest, her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her poems can be found in Day One, Vinyl, Split Lip Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, Reservoir, and elsewhere. Her heart is in Brooklyn.