No southern legitimacy statement but we have an autobiography: Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet and novelist. She’s 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. 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.
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.
about her hips,
his friend with accent
thick as panocha whispered.
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.
and animals are my hard lines.
“That’s too bad,” she demurred. “It’s incredible
what one can do
with a consenting platypus.”
My mother named me after her
father she hated. Like buying Papo’s notice
with a fat grandchild would make up
for anything. My mother
named me after famous cowboys
then went and married an NDN
herself. Meanwhile her own
My mom named me
the second most popular girls
name in 1981 because firsts
were for good girls without
panic. My middle
name was the same as a boy
in sixth grade with greasy
nails and dirty hair so I
said it was short for Colette.
My mother was a surprise
fifteen years too late. In the hospital,
her father said,
She ain’t much
to look at, is she?
the nurse to name her. The little Mexican
girl chose Rita after her own
child and nobody not nowhere ever
could say a pearl was an ugly thing.
My mother named me
for a man she despised well
after his girth had gone
to skeleton and the coffin flies
went still—but still,
I thought a namesake
should mean something
good and holy like clean
slates, buried shames and starting overs.