Poetry by Jessica Mehta


My mother told me I was a sociopath
because You don’t like touching, unable
to imagine it was her musky skin,
dust-dry lips that made me shrink.
She’d slap my head and demand
kisses on lips—even in Kindergarten
I had a fathoming
of what incest was. Burned something
fierce when I spiraled my father’s
oiled hair into two spikes
and said, I’m making you
.  How does a child know
such things, isn’t shame
learned or is it something seedy
and genetic? Like my mandibular
tori, bone growths
filling my mouth like cement, but still 

unable to stop the fattening
and the disgraces falling out.

Lattes and Labiaplasty

How good are you at unpacking? Real
damn good and fast—I beat everyone
at emptying the suitcase after vacation.
No, I mean your feelings, your emotions. Oh, real
fucking good. I slam those things into drawers
and closets so quick you can’t be certain,
not totally, that was a stain you saw
on the sleeve. All these new words
are so careful, the phrases so contrived. Nobody
wants to be all woman, and here I am
apologizing for not envying his cock
or whipping out credit cards
for labiaplasty. On the inside,
I picture a half-man goat sucking
a flute when I say I’m pan-sexual,
such a ridiculous word for lust
without limits. Who cares
who I bed or what my testosterone
levels are today? Unpack this, dismantle
that, something about patriarchy
and pretend women have zero privileges.
How’s this for privilege: I pass
as white and all the freedom
that carries, will never be falsely
accused of rape, and when I wear high heels
I trade perceived weakness for doors held
open and comped lattes with foam
like waning orgasms. We set the price,
finger the terms and choose by the day
the space we spoon from this world.

Summer in Lorraine

Hot air balloons can only crash—
it took me fifteen years and five thousand
miles to watch nylon
candies en flambé
fall like parade castoffs
from the sky. In open fields, hands
sticky with crepe drippings, the lot of us
craned our necks and clutched our phones
waiting with hungry impatience
for the cascade of exquisite collisions.

Pickle Backs

When a widower asks
to buy you a shot and your stools
are pushed tight
together against the bar,
you say yes as he fingers
a wedding ring. You ever
had a pickle back?
and you nod
because grief gives you freedom
to demand whatever you like.
The bourbon licked fever
past the fossa while the brine
bit back, but I thought
this sacrifice kinder than a fuck
on foreign sheets where repentance
tongues fire past the fornix
as the bitterness gnaws deep.


Searching Ink

They needled ink between my joints, filled

my bone spaces up

like an octopus

before the MRI machine swallowed me,

shaking, a gaping coffin. This must be

what it’s like to die. Lights too bright

to rest, strangers skirted like children,

and I’m still adding up the costs

in my broken head. These doctors

with their expensive machines

and too-sharp tools hover high

and murmur close—guessing

at the mystery while they fire

up the darkest crevices of my insides.

These secrets, buried fast,

had bloodied my cuticles, branded

shame into my hippocampus.

Is it worth it, the revealing? Or better

to go quiet and un-kicking,

let the working parts rock me

hard, straight to the forgetting.


 Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet and novelist. She’s the author of seven collections of poetry including the forthcoming Savagery, the forthcoming Constellations of My Body, the forthcoming Drag Me Through the Mess, as well as Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo as well as the novel The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded numerous poet-in-residencies posts, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. She is the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site at www.jessicatynermehta.com.

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