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Jessica Mehta

JessicaMI am the author of several books and currently a fellow at Halcyon Arts Lab in Washington DC where I am curating an anthology of poetry by incarcerated indigenous women. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, it is a passion project years in the making. Find out more at

Death’s Usher

I have cradled so many dying
things in these arms, my breast is a slow

beating graveyard. Wrest open
the brittle bars of my ribcage,
the arching foyer to this wanting
mausoleum. Guilt is so heavy,
so much more slippery
than sorrow—these hands
know the subtleties
between early-leaving seizures
and last no-takeback spasms.
Death’s usher, perched
at the in-between, I’ll ever carry
those echoing tremors
reverberating through my bones,
another notch in my osteobiography.
So many expirations I’ve blown
out in coos and shushes; let us talk gently

to the moribund. This morning,
after your stiffness settled
permanent in my skeleton, I brought the red
plums to a second boil—drowned
them syrup-slow in saccharine
pours, dumbly, costive, as if sweetness
alone might hasten this season to end.
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