The Constellations of My Body (A Poem)

"I tanned the cancer into my flesh ...shaved my teeth to needles ...filling my mouth with bathroom fixtures, let doctors cut me apart like a hunting prize" ~Jessica Mehta

I flanked myself in pretty, a dressing
since I had none of my own. I was always friends
with the beautiful girls,
the Hawaiian girl, the girl
next door, the girl
who killed herself. They adored me the same
as children do, toddlers demanding and wondering
why I ignored their magnificence while everyone
else fell awe struck at their feet. That’s why

I tanned the cancer into my flesh, chasing
her exotic reaches, shaved my teeth
to needles and cemented on porcelain, filling
my mouth with bathroom fixtures, let doctors
cut me apart like a hunting prize in the filth
of Central America, piece me back together,
all mismatched quilt of muscle and skin.

Even the lawyers say
I shouldn’t have survived.

My silence agreed when strangers called me fat,
when others said I was too ugly to bask in the company
of such beauteous presence, when the old queen
in London laughed, You’ll never be beautiful.
And then there was you.

In the frozen dermatologist’s room, he
taught you to sniff out cancer like a hound,
the rough edges, the swirling browns.

Do you love her constellations? he asked,
and your silence said Yes—the stars of my body,
shooting meteors, the fallout from years
in tanning beds seen for once as gorgeous
in their danger, those remote incandescent
miracles dying bright like fireworks
in the darkest, most secret of my nights.

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Jessica Mehta

Jessica Mehta, born and raised in Oregon and a member of the Cherokee Nation, is the author of the forthcoming novel The Wrong Kind of Indian by Wyatt-MacKenzie Press, the poetry collection You Look Something by The Operating System Press, and the poetry collection Orygun by Tayen Lane Publishing. She has previously authored two more books of poetry including the Pulitzer Prize nominated The Last Exotic Petting Zoo and What Makes an Always by Tayen Lane Publishing, as well as the business book 100 Ways to Make $100k with Your English Degree by Moonshine Cove Press. Jessica is the owner of MehtaFor, an award-winning writing services business, and founder of Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement.

1 Response

  1. This is painfully beautiful, honest, and real. I’m sorry for your experiences with cancer, Jessica, and I appreciate how you’ve churned that pain into beautiful art.

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