Twice in Jaipur and once in Delhi,
female security officers grabbed
my hand, spread the fingers, incredulous
at the wedding mehendi. Startling, right?
That this seemingly white girl
had snuck into their fort. But this,
this is far from the secretest secret
club. Just one stripped me bare
with her teeth, whipped me whimper
hard with her tongue. What’s this?
with a poke at my hip bone—
it jutted from my pants
like a weapon. And she saw me,
the whole embarrassment of me, the years
of calorie counting and too fats
and starve, starve, starving
to redemption. My first answer
was most honest. Nothing
(that’s me). My second sounded
an excuse: Bone (the damned reason
I could never fully disappear).
Show me, she commanded,
and I did. Raised my kurti, slid
my pants down homegrown
muscly thighs and displayed
my secret-telling bones
for the world to prod and judge.
I have one of you sitting
in my throat like a pigeon.
we hate them because they’re like us.
When you ask,
Tell me something, the droppings
are so sticky, dusty white I can’t
choke them out. My voice
has always been stifled,
it’s far too crowded down there
for us all to sing at once. But know,
scrape by struggle, I’ll tell
you everything with my fingertips.
You’ll find my words scrawled
on paper scraps, your something’s
inked in permanence. They’re loud,
gaudy and nakedly unashamed
in a way my voice could never bear.
So let the bird be, the filthy thing
is cleaner than all of us,
and especially me. What diseases
I’ve waded through, infections I’ve borne
and disgusts I’ve clutched dear
to whoosh across the wild to you.
Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet, novelist, and storyteller. She’s the author of five collections of poetry including the forthcoming Constellations of My Body, Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo as well as the novel The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Prize in Poetry, and numerous poet-in-residencies posts including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site at www.jessicamehta.com.