to the girl who first offered
_______________________that weak-looking shit
________________________________________broken down on the toilet seat
in the bathroom at Maple Inn___Em
______one of those girls who looked perfect
______to everyone___petite & blonde
______eyes that glittered
_______________________like fish scales.
I’d sunk to the bottom
_________________by then
_______________________a sparkle
______________________________in the belly
_________________heavy with ruin
_________________I gave beneath
_________________the weight of a man
_______________________his life
_______________________floating down
_______________________into a small
______________________________to the animal that swallowed me
No thing wants to give up
_______________________what it has already
________________________________________into its mouth—
______________________________that flooded world from which I crawled &
______________________________having made its tongue swam
______________________________out of like a word trying to reach
______________________________________________the surface—
I say it in every moment
________________________________________people are not needy for courtesy
________________________________________here in this city______named for its nascence
__________________________________________________its rebirth
________________________________________where I am new
__________________________________________________again where_____in the autumn
________________________________________of my still-young
__________________________________________________life I woke animate

to the man born here
___________whose face
_________________I met first
_______________________just below
on the street
___________who offered
___________so simply
___________his kindness
_________________He tells me_____to stop
for everything even
_________________my knowing
_____he says as if I know
_____such a word
_____when a man says it
_______________________as if I know any word
________________________________________other than the one I have
_________________________________________________________for what I’ve been




A bear caught Honey
on my cheek I show too much
teeth So sorry Some

days I wake leaking over
everything I come to

the sound of my own
crying The body’s syrup
an early egg cracked

on the side of relief Day
comes as night does Infertile


lather of grief All
yolk & rushed peak A knowing
so futile Along

my skin tiny fires flutter
in the forest of each pore


mimicking absence
its low register Humming
at my stove hot oil

runs down my leg Untested
as a house plant Tempering


a perennial
fascination with how far
it spreads All living

green things surging forth around
me into rapid growth See


me now rolling in
my own lushness Naked neck
bowing suddenly

upward parting mouth slick slit
dripping a dense symphony


of honeyed drones be-
side the throat-thick stalk of an
arum lily whose

single petal forms a horn
in the new explosive heat

JOY PRIEST is a native of Louisville, KY, currently living in Newark, NJ. She has received grants and fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council, Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and Rutgers University-Newark, where she is a writing instructor and MFA candidate in poetry. Her work can be found or is upcoming in Callaloo, Drunken Boat, Muzzle, Blunderbuss, Vinyl, and the anthologies Best New Poets 2014 and The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop.