I Wanted To Tell You First: For Peter James Conti

by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh

Today is Peter’s birthday. Though I mourn his death, I know that I wouldn’t have my son without him. Not only due to the grief that sparked hypomania but because he predicted 8 years before that I would be the first in our little group to have a baby. I thought he was crazy, turns out, he was right. I kept Boogie because I felt Peter had something to do with it. After doctors told me I couldn’t have children, I KNEW Peter had something to do with it.

This is the poem I wrote Peter when I wanted to tell him first but realized that I couldn’t.

I love you, Peter. We all do. You’re still here. I call him Boogie because he dances like you.


For Peter James Conti

i knew it was you who sent the
second line
sent the sudden tender of round
sent the stomach unsettled
the quiet that entered my throat
the rush that said,
“you already know but maybe this will force
your fatigue into rest. your irresponsibility
into organized lines.”

i wanted to tell you first
picked up the phone and held it
said your name into the receiver
watched as the phone fluttered and stopped
waited for the familiar click
the woman on the other end
mechanic and hollow reminds me
that you are no longer in service
and i choke a little

because i need you
need to mark my belly
with your hand
to ooh and ahh at the taut
and round it will become
like the day when you said,
“You’ll be the first. i can feel it.”
and i laughed at the crazy your tongue created
remember the way my eyes rolled away from you
“no, pete. you will be the first.”

and you were. but i forgot
to clarify and i am so sorry
that the universe hears what it wants to

And when I changed my mind for the
3rd time
You sent me a Lauryn Hill song
Thrown from a passing car
You already waiting in Zion

reminding me that time waits for no one

And I admit this missing you
Is selfish
but this fear threatens to eat
me from the inside out
when the man i created this poem with
refuses me his hand in comfort
or commitment
you would have adopt yourself into this ‘we’
and pushed the lonely from tongue

and i know that you would understand
my vanity
sing for me stretch mark potential
dance my widening hips into the hole
in your side
praise my growing belly into beautiful

feed me fat and faithful
rock me roller coaster and mood swing

Peter, wish me a girl with your face
a boy with your heart
I welcome your reflection
need to own something that holds your spirit
You wilt me kindness
remind me unconditional
we will always be a rock and rhythm
that no one else can hear
We the stilted memory of

you extra terrestial
you elegba
deliver me a trickster
send me something i can mold into
the you you were afraid to become
let me love him like you forgot to love
like i meant to love you
dizzy and completely
like the lover i could never be
but you held my heart steady as dreaming
my beauty
guide him
hold him
send him on the wave of your memory
and i will deny you nothing

ask me now if i can hear it
ask me now if i felt you move beside me
ask me now if i can do this for you
ask me now if i can hear you
when this became more than biology
when we became grown ups

i needed you first when the thought hit me
And again when the second line appeared
And again when they smiled a confirmation
And again when I wasn’t sure
And again when I changed my mind
And again when I changed it back
And again when I realized that he would come
The week after you left
And all I could say was yes
Because Peter asked me to

Lying on our backs in a Brooklyn that held our quiet
you stretched your arms towards the heavens
and said, “this is an incantation. you will be the first.”
And I said no
When what I meant was
Ask me again when my womb is
Crowded with only this miracle
and missing you

when the grief enters
my bones and lives like the converted
i will do this in remembrance
of you