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 Callaloo, Connotation Press, Four Way Review,espnW, Gulf Coast, Mississippi Review, The Rumpus, and Third Coast, and have been anthologized in Black Bone: 25 Years of the Affrilachian Poets, The 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.