Bad Indian By Jessica C. Mehta

Bad Indian

Bad Indian, not a speaker—who gives
a damn if they beat it out of my father
in residential boarding school? They say
“Pretendian” & an old man with creamed
blue eyes cackled after demanding my ancestry,

“Everyone’s a Cherokee.” I apologize

for green eyes, pale skin. It’s not enough
to soften cries of “Wana’be clan!
Elizabeth Warren all over
again.” Once an elder
vet spit on my wanting
cheekbones, my braids, that I didn’t know
Lakota. I did not choose my skin

or the trauma curdling rancid
through my blood. We are born into creation
disasters, settled war zones, armed
with chanced defenses so forgive me

that ivory is my weapon. Poachers try
& they show teeth, dressed
in polyester & crafted altruism
but I am fast & I remember. I’m kamama, you really
think you got us all? We still roam
our land, thirteen thousand years is a single heart
beat in the whole story. I am telling you, listen:

I am hungry, matriarch
made too young. My grief’s too big
to contain & like Damini I will starve
24 days to die from broken
chambers—and by god, how you will keen,
spill cracked-bone to your knees, pay
homage to my skeleton, to this bad Indian.

By 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

Leave a Reply