Secret-Telling Bones

By Jessica Mehta

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.

Jessica Mehta

Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet, novelist, and storyteller. She’s the author of eight books, which includes six collections of poetry: the forthcoming Constellations of My Body, the forthcoming Savagery, as well as Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo. She’s been awarded the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Prize in Poetry, the Potlatch Award for Native Artists, and numerous poet-in-residencies posts around the world including Hosking Houses Trust with an appointment at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, and Paris Lit Up in France. Visit Jessica’s author site at

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