the kuntilanak is a ghost that appears with long dark hair and a pale white face. According to Indonesian folklore, kuntilanak are the ghosts of women who suffered a violent death by men (i.e. abusive husbands). They have long nails used to devour the bodies of men. Their desire to retaliate against men is constantly debated.
do i have to die in order to be left alone?
i’ve coiled my fingers into a half fist all my life
yet i still find myself bearing witness to all my wounds
all forms of defense rendered useless
the one that killed me in order to stay alive tells my story anyway
the only way i survived was through a death
but i’m forever tethered to the way my body is suspended in memory
i want you to feel this. not the one who
is susceptible to this circumstance
but the one who turns this fear into fate
i will dig my nails into another man’s skin if it means this will never happen again
Dena Igusti (she/they) is an Indonesian Muslim poet, playwright, and journalist based in Queens, New York. She is the co-founder of multidisciplinary arts collective UNCOMMON;YOU and literary press Short Line Review. She is a 2018 NYC Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador and 2017 Urban Word Federal Hall Fellow. She is a 2019 Player’s Theatre Resident Playwright for her co-written Off-Broadway production “Sharum”. She is an Ars Nova Emerging Leaders Fellow of Spring 2020. Her work has been featured in BOAAT Press, Peregrine Journal, and several other publications. She has performed at The Brooklyn Museum, The Apollo Theater, the 2018 Teen Vogue Summit, and several universities across the nation. Her forthcoming collection will be published with Game Over Books. You can find her work at denaigusti.com.