Jessica Mehta – Mourning Lights

Jessica Mehta

Mourning Lights

My father visited me in a cramped
Atlanta hotel room five years
after he died. It was hours since
I took the ecstasy from a drag
queen’s bra, long after I faltered
through the doors of a basement
club on the other side of the city. I couldn’t recall
how I’d got there— let alone the miracle
of slurring the right address in a taxi. The dawn’s
pink fingers were just reaching in, trailing
across my wailing head, clawing fierce
into bruised eye sockets. I knew him

by his force, the dramatic entrance, that sizzle
in the air. I was still coming down, but in his glory
he hovered like a poltergeist in the room, lighting
up those cheap nylon sheets and bad prints
bright as a firecracker. In a panic I stuck
my head under the threadbare covers, sure
the ghosts would lose interest, the demons
wonder at my own magic when my wan moon face
disappeared with a snap. Weeks later I found my comfort,
my two fingers of numbness, smooth and strong— my father
came to me as ball lightning, a phenomenon explained
by science and dismissed as nature’s freak show. But I know,

in the deepest, secret chambers of my heart,
he gathered all his essence, all his power, all
his everything to fire up my world, and I—
I hid like a coward, a shaken toddler,
his crowning disappointment in the dark.


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 around the world. Visit Jessica’s author site at

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