Poetry Quintet

Poetry Quintet

How I Like My Women

I like my women slight and frail, bones
hollowly light, ribcages pressed
like prison bars against the skin.
I love the women with stomachs caved in,
divots carved like ice cream scoops
below breasts begging to melt. It’s the women
with the lips like readied blisters, skin sautéed
in good genes and creams
that remind me how exquisite we are
and of all I’ll never be.


The Lecture

You think I want to be here?
Listen, I was young like you once, too. I thought
of traveling the world and I did a little and let me tell you

there’s nothing romantic about drunken Korean men
vomiting on your shoes in the subway or Ticos on the beaches
holding your hand and sucking down iced sodas poured in plastic bags
while they give thirteen-year-old local girls the up down.

Just listen to me: I wanted to go to Iowa. I stood
on the murderous barstools at the Yamhill Pub on open mic night
and told roomfuls of belligerent strangers about my one-night stands.
I read The Bell Jar and fancied myself Esther
or thought, you know, if I’d just been born in the right decade
they’d have called me more handsome than Marlon Brando
and I could’ve been high every night

or crafted the perfect suicide letter. Listen,
I’ve done all that and let me tell you something you already know,

that thing that keeps tapping at your brain when you wake up at four
in the morning, it’s already started
to slip away and you better pray,
you better pray,
you at least had the foresight during one of those too-late nights
when you were wrapping your legs around someone whose face
you don’t remember or whose face is just too ridiculously
familiar now that you at least did something—

to make damn sure there’s something waiting for you on the other end
because if there’s not, if you didn’t think you’d get old, too,
like all the rest of us, that’s not going to stop
the freight train that’s barreling straight for you

and it’s going to smash the living hell out of everything because it can,
because it doesn’t care, because that’s its nature, it’s the scorpion
riding horseback here and just like you it will roll right over
something, someone, at some time considered precious
and barely even wonder what that bump was
as it keeps screaming into the night.


Sour Cream Raisin Pie

I balanced sour
cream raisin pie on fingers
filed into coffins – did my best
to stop the curdling. Nebraska
demands a fattening, a suffocation
in cream thickened peak
stiff with winter beatings.
When you asked what I missed
from my childhood, it was all

succulence slipped through lips.
My mother’s roast beef
I pretended to hate at ten
in hopes of a Wendy’s burger
quartered and flailing
in ketchup. Ham and cheese on Franz
bread whenever I smell
the ocean. Sipping Coke
from a bent spoon like it’s gazpacho,
only my thin flesh cushioning
the grind between bone and steel.
None of the missings
are for something so decadent
as this screaming of colostrum
stolen from shaking animal teats,
heavy, stinking, and melting
beneath my creaking airplane seat.


Try This On

I put on weight slowly, carefully,
contrived. It was pure
muscle, all Does this curve
make me look fat? and
Does this vein make me look jacked?
I eased into it, tried it on,
took it back off then slipped
into it again. It was odd, feeling
Normal. Not all size zeroes
fit anymore. Sometimes
my thighs kiss each other, skeletons
no longer stare back from mirrors.
And I miss them,
at times, those ghosts, the bony
collarbones and knocking knees
so beautiful in the haunting.


The Proposal

It wasn’t in one of our fancy restaurants, over plates
of raw lamb, deer hearts and discs
of foie gras melting into woodblock
chocolate. You did it at home,
me in my old pink sweatpants
from the last exotic petting zoo, you smelling
of salt and the hours buried
in the lab. It was February, two weeks before
we returned from India, two weeks after
your father’s disappointment, your mother’s
smile, battered as yours. Two weeks
after our nights tucked into street
pizza loaded with sweat and canned cheese. Every day
since we left,
you told me one thing about the country
you’d spent decades waiting to leave. In India,
if there are many things you want,
you have to bargain. But if there’s just one,
one thing you desire,
then you have to bribe.

This is how you asked me to marry you.
My hair, greased into a knot, acne
cream on my face, and you
in shining gym clothes. One hand
held a can of Amul cheese that had survived
the aching of 15,720 miles. In the other,
a simple loop of gold. Endless. This is your bribe,
if you let me be your husband.

Jessica (Tyner) Mehta, born and raised in Oregon and a member of the Cherokee Nation, is the author of thirteen books, including eight collections of poetry, four novels, and one nonfiction book. She’s received several writer-in-residency posts around the world, including the Hosking Houses Trust with an appointment at The Shakespeare Birthplace (Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK), Paris Lit Up (Paris, France), the Women’s International Study Center (WISC) Acequia Madre House post (Santa Fe, NM), the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts (Nebraska City, NE), and a Writer in the Schools (WITS) residency at Literary Arts (Portland, OR)

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