Jessica Tyner Mehta
While Zozobra Burns
My first night in Santa Fe I walked
for hours, lost in adobe mazes.
Parking lots were punctuated with hatch
green chilies tumbling in iron cages
while dusty sedans stood guard. Indigenous
red suns rested on fields of yellow
and for once a Native man told me
I was beautiful. Say something
about her hips, his friend with accent
thick as panocha whispered. Esas caderas—
but you shook those oiled braids
like whipsnakes and we matched
smiles over mesa cheekbones. Ashes
from the burned stick man built
nests in our plaits and I licked
charred woes from strangers
off my sun-cracked lips
as the big white cross guided me home.
A Consenting Platypus
The septuagenarian served me tea
in the garden of her thatched roof
British cottage. Between spoons
of fish pie and too much Prosecco,
I told her about the best-selling erotica
I ghost write. How people don’t like sex
until at least chapter nineteen.
She asked me about bestiality, which of us
animals are the nastiest. No, incest
and animals are my hard lines.
“That’s too bad,” she demurred. “It’s incredible
what one can do
with a consenting platypus.”
All My King’s Horsemen
My legs were made strong, like a king’s horse,
to carry me through this life, capable
of taking the desire paths that branch off
from the pavement. My arms were crafted
to carry others—other people,
other things. My hips splay wide, bone
crowns riding those long mare legs, perfect
thrones for heavy loads. Give me
our child, and they’ll ride like royalty,
kulfi sticky hands coating my breast,
an anointment. A blessing.
My Body, My Self
I’ve put you through so much, and still
you hold me up—shaky
legs and bumpy arms. The years I fed you scraps
at best, you lapped up every crumb, used
each speck to carry on. The times
I beat you stupid, beyond
the ability to stand, flinch from the traumas
or keep fists above breastbone. Remember
the time I slipped you the ecstasy, only
it was some kind of speed-meth monster
that left us lurching in the Atlanta heat? Me,
I would have left me by now. Long ago.
you’ve stayed, solid. Through the disrespect,
the slaps, the ridicule and pummeling
abuses. And not once did you break. Give up
for good. Not gather all your everythings,
but stood tall on too long legs
and screamed, demanding for more.
After the race, the medal and bananas,
I couldn’t find you. Those twenty-six miles
rode me good, flooded my knees and swelled
my feet. I couldn’t sit, couldn’t stand, found
solace only in slow movement. Little circles, like a dog
with worms or a shark
too stubborn to die. So I wandered—
past the free pretzels, the homeless
woman grabbing for my milk. Is this the corner
to crumple, will you
find me here?
Before my legs gave entirely and the sidewalk
turned too damned delectable to refuse,
I called you from a stranger’s phone.
And you came, heavy camera ‘round neck
to bring me to warm seats, cold water,
butterscotch candies and home.
Jessica Tyner Mehta: "I am a Cherokee poet and novelist. I'm the author of six collections of poetry including the forthcoming Savagery, the forthcoming Constellations of My Body, Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo as well as the novel The Wrong Kind of Indian. I've 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. I am the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. I am the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and am the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit www.JessicaTynerMehta.com."