“Survivor’s Guilt: A Villanelle”

A Poem by Anacaona Rocio Milagro, from The BreakBeat Poets, Vol. 4: Latinext

June 19, 2020  By Anacaona Rocio Milagro

for the family members of the incarcerated

You’re a Caribbean woman. You cannot be without tribe.
–Willie Perdomo

I can only whisper this to you:
I’ve been called a survivor. It’s a lie.
I’ve died 2,920 times. It’s the truth.

I reanimate in Sing Sing, visiting siblings—play it cool.
I bury my heart—my mouth, the tomb. Gagging on life,
I can only whisper this to you.

I murder through suicide the girl of my youth:
I can’t bear her nostalgia. For each day they serve time,
I’ve died 8,395 times. It’s the truth.

I pretend it’s okay; they pretend too.
I survived nothing. Can’t speak aloud—I tried.
I can only whisper this to you.

I can’t cry at goodbyes. Don’t make it worse: Mother’s rule. I
can’t avoid home, pop pills, fly high. Without my tribe,
I’ve died 13,140 times. It’s the truth.

Visit prisons gripping guilt like a bouquet of bloodroot.
Missed calls, unsent birthday cards, holidays are so cruel.
This can only be whispered to you:
We are dying. No one survives this. It’s the truth.


Excerpted from The BreakBeat Poets, Vol. 4: Latinext, a poetry anthology by Haymarket Books. 

Anacaona Rocio Milagro
Anacaona Rocio Milagro is a native New Yorker and poet living in Washington Heights. She is the mother of Nirvana Sky and Zion Dario. Her father is from the Dominican Republic and her mother is from St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands. She is the daughter of Oshun but adopted by Yemaya. She earned an MFA in poetry at NYU's low-residency program in Paris and an MPH at Columbia University. She earned a BA in social anthropology and journalism/creative writing with a minor in art from Baruch College. However, nothing compares to her education from the prestigious school of hard knocks.

More Story
Read From Ralph Ellison's Novel, Juneteenth The following is from Ralph Ellison's posthumously published novel, Juneteenth. * No, the wounded man thought, Oh no! Get back...