It wasn’t in one of our fancy restaurants, over plates
of raw lamb, deer hearts and discs
of foie gras melting into woodblock
chocolate. You did it at home,
me in my old pink sweatpants
from the last exotic petting zoo, you smelling
of salt and the hours buried
in the lab. It was February, two weeks before
we returned from India, two weeks after
your father’s disappointment, your mother’s
smile, battered as yours. Two weeks
after our nights tucked into street
pizza loaded with sweat and canned cheese. Every day
since we left,
you told me one thing about the country
you’d spend decades waiting to leave. In India,
if there are many things you want,
you have to bargain. But if there’s just one,
one thing you desire,
then you have to bribe.
This is how you asked me to marry you.
My hair, greased into a knot, acne
cream on my face, and you
in shining gym clothes. One hand
held a can of Amul cheese that had survived
the aching of 15,720 miles. In the other,
a simple loop of gold. Endless. This is your bribe,
if you let me be your husband.
Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet, novelist, and storyteller. She’s the author of five collections of poetry, Constellations of My Body (forthcoming), Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo, as well as a novel The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Prize in Poetry, and 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.