Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition for best self-published or independently published book. In addition to prizes, the winner, finalists, long-listed, and more than 100 notable books from the competition are featured in the December/January issue of Shelf Unbound.
Savagery joins Mehta’s oeuvre as a reflection of what it means to be indigenous in today’s increasingly hostile, post-colonial America. Reflecting on self, place, and space and with strong confessional leanings,
Savagery joins the ranks of other much-needed indigenous poetry of the era to provide a lens (and mirror) into indigenous issues and disparities while also providing a constant offering of hope. These poems are raw and very, very necessary.
About The Author: J.C. Mehta
JC Mehta is a multi-award-winning poet and author of over one dozen books. She’s currently a poetry editor at Bending Genres Literary Review, Airlie Press, and the peer-reviewed Exclamat!on journal. During 2018-19, she was a fellow at Halcyon Arts Lab in Washington DC where she curated an anthology of poetry by incarcerated indigenous women and created “Red/Act,” a pop-up virtual reality poetry experience using proprietary software. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and native Oregonian, place and personal ancestry inform much of Mehta’s creative work.
READ AN EXCERPT
Am I not Native enough for you?
What are you? I can see
in your cheekbones. My skin, white
albumen on salmon,
etched into the bones
the only whisper of Cherokee
begging to be birthed.
Show me your tribal card,
ancestry, your lineage, proof
of Dawes Rolls in your blood.
You look like something.
Something savage and uncontained.
The Heart Consumes Itself
It’s not true the starved
don’t eat, we die
of broken hips, pelvis
churned to dust—slowly,
the heart consumes
itself. Atrophies and implodes.
(These chambers, remember,
are a muscle.)
Nobody nowhere shoulders
the strength to stop it all, the whole
fat world from slipping
between cracked, wanting lips. We eat
and we hate,
with each bite and gag-
me spoon. Our weakness
displayed like limbs
splayed wide, flushed
shameful folds of pink.
How I wish
I could stop. Let the valves
shut down cold. Listen,
that last organ coda. And you
in dutiful ovation.
She Was Always So Thirsty
I packed my mom in Tupperware
from the dollar store. She always wanted
to go to the Bahamas, even before
she’d gone to sand—before her bones
could be mistaken for broken
shells. I don’t know if it’s bad
to divide ashes, leave a slice
of femur in the Caribbean foam,
a chip of coccyx in Oregon waterfalls
gushing like overdue orgasms.
How does a person want to be
after our skin’s burned to sepia,
the only organ capable
of holding all our worst messes
together? She never said but I felt
her wailing through my insides
demanding turquoise waters, a cleanse,
a starting over. But then again,
who’s surprised? She was always so thirsty.
Article originally Published in the December/January 2020 Issue “2019 Indie Best Award Winners”