Joy Priest


First Saturday in May, Mama works my curls into tight pigtails. The only day of the year
she bothers. The up-sweep of skin pulls my face into a grin. Special occasion barrettes
molded into the white plastic body of a horse, gallop behind me
at the tip of my braids 

as I race the stretch of our narrow alley
street, waving down the fancy cars,
shouting at the rolled-up windows— 


* * * 

Eight years old & I am a professional.
Up early to greet the regulars. Mr. Whitlock—black Lincoln Town Car. Mr. Crouch—red topless Corvette. I usher the expensive machines into the VIP space of our carport. Slip stiff money
& keys into envelopes. Pander through the painful pity pats dropped on my freshly-parted scalp.
All day long, up & down Cliff Ave.

I am my mother's gimmick.

Reeling in the big bettors. Giving directions to the track in my tiny voice. Picking the sure horse. Selling our yard &

lemonade to orange-tinted men sweating through linen,
their nameless women under gaudy hats. 

* * * 

The announcer's voice echoes, blankets our roofs. A kind of distant
Oz over our now-empty streets. Grills warming. Beers hissing. I memorize the faces

stretched out on a scratchy lawn chair
beneath the mellow blimp humming
across the sky. We argue garage-to-garage,

place the real bet— 

which ones will remember the way back

Joy Priest

Joy Priest is a writer living in the In-Between where she was born and raised. She has been accepted to Callaloo Journal and Bread Loaf’s creative writing workshops, and at 25 she is one of the newest and youngest members of the Affrilachian Poets. Joy is the recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from the Kentucky Arts Council and her work can be found in Pluck! Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, Still: The Journal, Toe Good Poetry Journal, Solstice Literary Magazine, Best New Poets 2014, and on her website at