Jessica Tyner’s poetic memories

Jessica Tyner’s poetic memories


By Zobel

The Last Exotic Petting Zoo

In the dripping cold of an Oregon January,

miasma of wet dog clung to us like a

discarded lover. You, sick

with a cough and a heavy head tucked

in the pages of a book. I drove

like hell down the coastal

back roads. No one holds tigers

and lions in the winter

but us.

The wanton mud swallowed our shoes,

sucked our feet in searching gulps

while the animals watched.

You held her,

Bristled paws like a kiwano,

as I cradled the bottle of milk

into her frantic mouth knowing you’ll never

think me as magnificent as you

do right now.

I gifted you a tiger cub, her claws etching

delicate scars into your forearms,

while the rain scoured us to the bone.



by Zobel

Christmas Chai

That Christmas I gave you an aphotic

steel teapot and you taught me

how to make chai.

I filled the gaping vessel’s mouth with tap water

while you peeled slices of unwashed

ginger root. Two spoons

of Taj Mahal ground tea, a mouthful

for each.

Cardamom pods, cracked with your crooked teeth

and pried open with fingernails, tossed

helpless in the boil. Milk

comes last,

an opaque white stream

soothing dark spiced water.

The sweetness we could never agree on.

My slow honey, your raw

sugar. That Christmas you gave me words wrapped

in a lilting accent and I taught you

how to say I love you.

I opened my mouth to take you in

while you peeled away clothes from the night

before to spoon,

together, on the mattress.

You bit my shoulder, red fissures from teeth

while I pulled your frenzied hair. Lost together

in the cheap red sheets,

I never came last.

And the sweetness

we could never agree on.





Two memories from when I was three

define my mother and father. A bath in the chipped

tub bubbling from generous squirts of dish

soap that dried my skin. We could never

afford the real things.

The plastic horse squirt gun, half

full. My father came in

to shave his neck, swiping the blade neatly

around his moustache. When he finished,

he turned and scanned my naked body.

I shot him in the face,

scrubbed away his searching eyes and that

is how I learned what a gun is for.

I suckled my mother’s breast until I could speak

because she wanted me to. The warm milk

filled my mouth, spreading to my limbs

like a drug. I lay on her chest in their bed,

a cartoon boxing match between a chicken

and a lamb on the TV. They squealed in one ear,

her heart beat in the other. As a bell rang and the animals

began circling, the nipple engorged

against my tongue, grotesque and huge, and that

is when I learned what teeth are for.

Years later, I watched my best friend’s

five-year-old daughter

try to cover her mother’s

chest with a blanket while her infant brother

was breast fed. A child discovers shame

as quickly as a farm animal

gets the metal bolt to the brain.

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Jessica Tyner is originally from Oregon, USA, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and has been a writer and editor for ten years. Currently, she is a copy writer for Word Jones, a travel writer with Mucha Costa Rica, a writer for TripFab, a copy editor at the London-based Flaneur Arts Journal, and a contributing editor at New York’s Thalo Magazine. She has recently published short fiction in Out of Print Magazine in India, and poetry in Slow Trains Literary Journal, Straylight Magazine, and Solo Press. She lives in San José, Costa Rica.

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