Jessica Mehta

Mourning Lights


My father visited me in a cramped
Atlanta hotel room five years
after he died. It was hours since
I took the ecstasy from a drag
queen’s bra, long after I faltered
through the doors of a basement
club on the other side of the city. I couldn’t recall
how I’d got there—let alone the miracle
of slurring the right address in a taxi. The dawn’s
pink fingers were just reaching in, trailing
across my wailing head, clawing fierce
into bruised eye sockets. I knew him

by his force, the dramatic entrance, that sizzle
in the air. I was still coming down, but in his glory
he hovered like a poltergeist in the room, lighting
up those cheap nylon sheets and bad prints
bright as a firecracker. In a panic I stuck
my head under the threadbare covers, sure
the ghosts would lose interest, the demons
wonder at my own magic when my wan moon face
disappeared with a snap. Weeks later I found my comfort,
my two fingers of numbness, smooth and strong—my father
came to me as ball lightning, a phenomenon explained
by science and dismissed as nature’s freak show. But I know,

in the deepest, secret chambers of my heart,
he gathered all his essence, all his power, all
his everything to fire up my world, and I—
I hid like a coward, a shaken toddler,
his crowning disappointment in the dark.


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