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Jessica (Tyner) Mehta

JessicaMJessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet, novelist, and storyteller. She’s the author of eight books, which includes six collections of poetry: the forthcoming Constellations of My Body, the forthcoming Savagery, as well as Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo. She’s been awarded the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Prize in Poetry, the Potlatch Award for Native Artists, and numerous poet-in-residencies posts around the world including Hosking Houses Trust with an appointment at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, and Paris Lit Up in France. Visit Jessica’s author site at

The Weight of Secrets

Secrets weigh a tremendous lot
so you have to be real sure
you can bear the brunt.
And that they’re worth it—like a child
who cries something so fierce
you rock them to quiet, something
like complacency. Heavy burdens
only strengthen tendons, grow
muscles, densify bones so long
before the joints give out. I’ve carried
so many pinky swears they’ve built colonies
on my back. A dowagers hump
of things I’ll never tell, words packed
with a blistering power my tongue
would burn before those syllables
can trickle fire down my chin.

Juan G.

For a year he cut the lawn, and I never
knew his last name. I had to ask
the neighbor in the yellow
house after he vanished, her roses
dormant witnesses in the dark. When I’d tried
in terrible Spanish to explain where to plant the lavender,
my macetestumbled out machete
and he’d laughed behind black
cheap glasses, said, Police, bad,
they don’t like it. Words fall out
clumsy, twisted, and his surname—
we only cared when he’d gone. Then,
it was knocks on doors, furtive
asks in the night. For a week I watched
the online detainee locator site,
made calls that never came back.
The neighbor patrolled his church, carried
back stories of an avocado orchard
outside Tancítaro, unravelling
acres of drug cartels with fuerte-slick lips
where his father-in-law was murdered
last month. We don’t know to hope
that ICE ripened him out or if he turned scared
and went south. Children hunkered
the cab with grass clippings, his wife
watching the exit signs fall
to one. Who knows? the neighbor
said, her white teeth shining. Maybe one day
he’ll show up with a truck of avocados
and his cataracts scraped clean.
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