Self-Portrait as Disney Princess


 Never a child with other children. Dead summer, so dark

The bottoms of your feet look as if you’ve skipped through ash.


Your only friends: the carpenter bees who bear perfectly round holes

In the carport’s rotting wood frame & dance in socked feet


Glittering with pollen, the hummingbirds hovering at your head

Like a crown. Your caretaker—old man, pallor of appropriate pedigree—


Sits chain-smoking inside the house, hacking phlegm

Into a Folgers can-made-spittoon, thinking himself your savior.


You know only compassion. Watch the spiders curl

Into flowers of death, and, having observed them building their webs


Each dusk, preside over small funerals of admiration. You are green

As the colonial Pippins piling beneath a neighbor’s Newtown.


C’mere little squirrel you say to the kit scooping it into your arms.

How could you know its mother will never touch it again?



Joy Priest  is a 2019-2020 Poetry Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her poems and essays appear in numerous publications, including CallalooConnotation PressFour Way Review,espnWGulf CoastMississippi ReviewThe Rumpus, and Third Coast, and have been anthologized in Black Bone: 25 Years of the Affrilachian PoetsThe Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop, and Best New Poets 2014 and 2016.

Priest is the winner of the 2019 Gearhart Poetry Prize from The Southeast Review; the 2019 Nikki Giovanni Scholar at the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop; the 2018 Gregory Pardlo Scholar at The Frost Place; the winner of the 2016 College Writers’ Award from the Hurston/Wright Foundation; and the recipient of a 2015 Emerging Artist Award from the Kentucky Arts Council.


%d bloggers like this: