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.
The 36 hours after you asked me to marry you,
I didn’t sleep.
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
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.