Jessica Mehta

Spotlight: Owl of Forest Park / Jackson Street

Owl of Forest Park

Early Saturdays, before the dawn,
before the morning birds,
I walked the trails of Forest Park beyond the zoo,
crushed the arteries of Hoyt Arboretum
beneath my spreading feet, turned the fallen petals
from the rose garden to shaving peels.
It was here, in the darkness of Portland mornings
that I felt most alive. Before the throngs
of tourists arrived, before the fat pink trolley
made its chortling rounds—when rabbits were still brave
enough to dash between bushes
and the good swings wide enough for birthing hips
held a layer of night frost close as you,
the one I left sleeping in our loft. Weeks before
we left, headed south to the border town,
I felt the wondering eyes scaling me
and for once I wasn’t alone. Welcomed
into his Parliament, he reigned proud
on the stump, bearing witness to my noisy
shoes, the complaints of my knees,
my complete lack of grace before his being.
Inches away, he didn’t blink, he didn’t turn,
not once faltering like so many others. This
was my farewell, my blessing to go, my reminder
of the beauty from which I came and from where
I’ll never return.


Jackson Street

Nothing we found fit, so we built
our first house from the weeds
up. Virgin land, gurgling with spiders
and an out of control apple tree—it dropped
fermented fruits on the earth, drunken
offerings for livestock
that hadn’t roamed that farmland
for decades. Above the flood plains,
past the blackberry bushes,
it took months to close,
to get the permits, collect
yes stamps like A grades. Then,
on a frosted September day
that felt like winter, we asked blessings
of the land, permission from the gods
to Build. I wore that one sundress,
black with cutouts at the midriff,
and old cowboy boots. With burning sage
in one hand and a gathered skirt
in the other, I circled our small hill,
our Home,
muttering prayers in the chill
while you snapped photo
after photo from weathered Jackson Street.


Jessica Mehta Jessica Mehta is a Cherokee poet and novelist. She’s the author of four collections of poetry, including Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo, as well as the novel The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant in poetry, and numerous poet-in-residencies, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, as well as posts at Paris Lit Up and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe. Jessica is the owner of a multi award-winning writing services business, MehtaFor. Find Jessica at