Joy Priest

Joy Priest is a Kentucky native currently living in Newark, NJ. Her poems are in or upcoming in Callaloo, Drunken Boat, Best New Poets, Vinyl, Blunderbuss, Muzzle, and Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop.




Angel was my grandfather’s girlfriend when he died.
Back there, in my memory, I hear my mother fussing about
condoms & AIDS! She is saying, The girl is only 25, & Black! My
daddy, amused at the irony of racism, whispering to me: He’s at his
end anyway. Angel was stripping at Déjà Vu when he moved her into the
front bedroom & this is where I began to realize what, precisely, was
going on: He couldn’t remember me, but by then he was forgetting who
he was too. Outside the club, next to our world famous horseracing track, the
infamous sign read: Win-Place-Show Bar | 99 Pretty Girls & 1 Ugly One! A
jab at Angel—their only dark-skinned dancer. She mystified them with her
kaleidoscope of color contacts & quick weave. They loved her equine legs. I
loved her for telling my secret loud, for making a messy joke of him & my
mother the way I felt they had made a mess of me. After Angel moved in I
never saw him again. My mother avoided his street. She could not get
over the hypocrisy: How he’d disowned her when I was born, then made her
promise not to speak of my blackness, my father, to me. Buried hole of
quiet lies they dug for years before it opened beneath the two of us &
ruined everything. Maybe my mother envied Angel because she
saw the truth of him out & when he began forgetting
to hate us, to put his white hood on every day, Angel
used him the proper way. I like to think of her as
Veritas, the goddess at the bottom of that empty
well, naked & holding a hand mirror. Or maybe it was me, a
xeric un-blooming thing down there beneath them. I had, for
years, been taught to live that way. Black, unassuming,
zipped up in history—an America not even disease can destroy

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