Poems by Jessica Mehta
Beebe Farms: Closed August, 2017
The orchard went last
summer. At the time
I didn’t know the end
was nipping feral
at my ankles. Death makes us
want to fill our bellies, drown
the flashbacks. That’s why
we reach for fucks we won’t
remember and pray for pregnancies
swollen with regrets. When she died,
nostalgia skipped clean
over me straight into the trash.
I wanted nothing, no blouses
to sniff, old trophies to dust or scraps
of handwriting already burned
brand-hot into cortex.
All I wanted
was to leave the dying trees
behind and forget childhood
desire paths overgrown. Brambles
spread like disease on familiar
acres and the brittle limbs
shot upward in prayer—but not once
did I drive by the pastures
or look skyward with cold faith
for anything close to a signal.
I won’t feign to know the flight patterns of butterflies.
When I was six, my mother gave me an insect catcher,
a Lilliputian tent to trap and confine. Endless summers
I spent roaming our square acre, sprinting after Monarchs
as they jerked like drunkards towards the neon sky. But a tent,
those can only do so much. Wings make you quick,
so fingers work much better,
short and grass stained, shining with sweat.
I’d like to believe when I ripped off the orange-black
butterfly’s wing it was a mistake—I want
to believe it kept soaring high, a little crooked
and only half emptied of grace, untouchable. Forgetting
the stolen wing in my palm,
or maybe we never forget. Maybe they never forget.
Thirty years later on the California backroads
it came back, this time
in droves, in herds,
blackened flurries like an anarchic snowstorm. It was the heat
of summer and still
I barreled through throngs of wings for miles,
bodies crushed onto windshield, streaks of neon
amidst the dark. Not once did I stop as the corpses piled up,
not once did I slow down
never did I falter to look
and breathe in all the destruction I can cause, all
that I’m capable of.
Jessica Mehta is the author of over one dozen books and is a multi-award-winning poet and interdisciplinary artist. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, space, place, and ancestry inform much of her work. She is currently a First Peoples Fund fellow, has two books releasing in 2021, and is in the final year of a doctoral program researching the intersection of poetry and eating disorders. Learn more at www.thischerokeerose.com.