Weekly Feature

“Baila Morena”

It wasn’t all bad. I remember

the good, and it wasn’t in the big moments
(it never is). The year en Moravia whipped

me raw with the scaling Tico Spanish, 

the dirty buses and whistles trailing

from scooter saddles. But that quiet day 

the rain twisted my locks

into a frenzy and pressed the cotton closer

to your heart than I ever got—that

is our Costa Rica. Tucking into casadas

while the queso vendor across the street

shouted palmito specials to the downpour.
¡Aqui solo calidad le vendemos! The flies

hugged us close in the tiny soda

shop while Baila Morena lulled us all

into a stupor deeper than Imperial
could ever muster. We knew the palmito in the city

would never compare to the fresh wonder

balls sold in huts papered with banana leaves

along the winding rainforest back roads. 

You knew I was already half gone

by the urgency of my swallows. And I knew 

it would take years shrouded

in a different love, 

a different life,

to ever listen to that song again.

“Baila Morena” Originally published in Speckled Trout Review, May 2020

The Green Fig Tree in the Story

You are my fig, how incredible

that another poet couldn’t choose.

You don’t sit, idle, so incredibly

selfish that you refuse to hear

your heart screaming. All those riches

hanging pregnant, skins splitting

at your flanks—they’re distractions. Some
call them temptations, but not me.

I see past them, straight

to your center

and the sweet explosions beneath.

36 Hours

The 36 hours after you asked me to marry you,

I didn’t sleep.

Instead

I wrote to my friends in the Middle East,

burrowed down into my work

and practiced balancing the new weight

of my left hand, wrapped in veins 

and slender as spiders’ legs. The 36 hours

after you proposed in our kitchen,

the past five years shot memory bullets

through my body, the fight ‘til dawn

years ago when I told you One day

you’ll tell your parents about me. One day

you’ll cry for me 

like you did for your nani, and one day

I’ll be gone. The lies

we told ourselves and each other

got mixed up somehow like a college kid’s 

jungle juice, too sweet

but we,

we were too naïve to know it 

and now that the tar of your hair

has given way to webs of silver

and the wrinkles spooning my eyes

no longer tuck away when I sleep,

you know I was right. In the 36 hours

after we let what was written’s ink dry,

bleeding into the papers and pages of we,

I didn’t want to risk a surprise ending,

a slow awakening from a lucid dream,

the kind you get consumed by wholly

on a sun-drowned afternoon and try to dig your way

out like a crazed animal, nails puncturing mud walls

while you wail like a beast, yet still you slip deeper,

bloodying your knees and making bargains with God

but to all the rest of the world, you rest

in peace, warmed and comforted by the glow.

Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, interdisciplinary artist, multi-award-winning poet, and author of over one dozen books. Place, space, and personal ancestry inform much of her work. She’s also the Editor-in-Chief of Crab Creek Review and owner of an award-winning small business. MehtaFor is a writing services company that offers pro bono services to Native Americans and indigenous-serving non-profits. 

Her novel The Wrong Kind of Indian won gold at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) and at the American Book Fest Best Book. Jessica has also received numerous fellowships in recent years, including the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship at the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington and the Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship at The British Library in London. Jessica is a popular speaker and panelist, featured recently at events such as 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.

She has undertaken poetry residencies around the globe including at Hosking Houses Trust with an appointment at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and at the Crazy Horse Memorial and museum in South Dakota. Her work has been featured at galleries and exhibitions around the world, including IA&A Hillyer in Washington DC, The Emergency Gallery in Sweden, and Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico.