Jessica Mehta is a multi-award-winning poet and author of over one dozen books. She’s currently a poetry editor at Bending Genres Literary Review, Airlie Press, and the peer-reviewed Exclamat!on journal. During 2018-19, she was a fellow at Halcyon Arts Lab in Washington DC where she curated an anthology of poetry by incarcerated indigenous women and created “Red/Act,” a pop-up virtual reality poetry experience using proprietary software. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and native Oregonian, place and personal ancestry inform much of Jessica’s creative work. Jessica’s novel The Wrong Kind of Indian won gold at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs). Jessica has also received numerous visiting fellowships in recent years, including the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship at the Lilly Library at Indiana University at Bloomington and the Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship at The British Library. Visual representations of her work have been featured at galleries and exhibitions around the world including IA&A Hillyer in Washington DC and The Emergency Gallery in Sweden. Jessica is a popular speaker and panelist, featured recently at events like the US State Department’s National Poetry Month event, “Poets as Cultural Emissaries: A Conversation with Women Writers,” as well as the “Women’s Transatlantic Prison Activism Since 1960” symposium at Oxford University.
Economics of the Heart
You had to die for me to know
the layers wormed within your bones—children
are born narcissists, open mouths
and puckered fists. We command
with animal mewls, gifted dripping
nipples appear like offerings, a sacrifice
that wrings you clean
empty. For years
I sliced away (a martyr
must have scars). I want,
I want, I want and still …
you with nothing left, I ask
for more. The knowing
that you’d saw yourself to pieces,
give away the last dregs
of your endocardium
was sweeter than any colostrum
and cost more riches than I’ll ever know.
Great Grace and Sharp Wings
37 years old and still starving myself—how much
longer until I don’t care anymore? You say,
Stop caring now,
but I don’t know
if I can be one of those old ladies
with limp hair and no lipstick.
(Not that this is old, it’s just …
when does old happen? How do we
simply slip into it like it fits? I’m not sure
I have the capacity to grow old
with grace or by any other means.)
Do we call fat 60-year-old women
fat-fat, or is that when plump begins?
How about 70? Or 80? When
does it all end and how do I stop
running hands over stomach
to see if today’s a skinny day? My plan
is to die at 66, right before the life
insurance expires and maybe
(if I do it right) they’ll say it was a slender
old woman who fell
with great grace and sharp wings
in front of that rumbling train.
There’ll be no open casket, and guilt-
laden memories are kind to the dead.
(Please, if you remember, call me beautiful
in the obits and choose a photo
where my collarbones protrude like plumage).