Braiding By Jessica C. Mehta


The morning of my mother’s death
call, I couldn’t plait my hair—a weaving,
daily habit I thought branded into cerebellum
had left me quick as her. It’s fragile,
memory encoding. Ripe for damage.
Even consolidation isn’t a given.
We imagine: we could eat

in the dark if we had to, the slopes
and secrets of our favorite lover. I cried
silent in the bathroom, thin strands
laced crooked through shaking fingers
at the impossibility of it all. It had been decades
since I’d sat cross-legged between her knees
buried in shag carpet. Patient, quiet
while she wound cornrows like crop circles
along my scalp. The smell of Pert shampoo,
the snap of red rubber bands, everything
came whooshing back. But not the braiding,

the fast fingers. Makes sense. Remember:
the heart is a muscle, too. Its memories
vulnerable to paralysis like every other run
down part of us. Still, only in stillness,
can the dead pass through, clean
the kitchen and leave us
to mop the floors of drying curls.

Jessica C. Mehta


Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a poet and novelist, and member of the Cherokee Nation. Jessica is the author of ten books including the forthcoming Savagery, the forthcoming Drag Me Through the Mess, and the forthcoming Drag Me Through the Mess. Previous books include Constellations of My Body, Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo and The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded numerous poet-in-residencies posts, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. She is the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site at

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