The Poetry Brothel

By Jessica Mehta

Last night I was a whore
at the seedy poetry brothel
where men and women bought
my time with poker chips. In return,
I took their arms or hands, led them
to back rooms and read them my words—
split open my insides stuffed with you—
over candles that smelled
of strange flowers. My waist-
length hair kept tucked under the black
bob wig, my toes gone numb in too-
expensive shoes, and you
watched from the bar. I was never good

at flirting with women. Not much
better with men. But I think
it would have been easier
(I would have been easier)
to let them needle and nose
between my legs
rather than give up the words
I birthed for you, flying loose
between my teeth. It was an affair
of the dirtiest kind, the first
cheat where the guilt stuck hard.

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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