- American Honey
It's easier than you thought—leaving.Only one night spent sleeping on your ownin a motel parking lot beneath the starsof a summer Muskogee. Your long-built dreaddispersing like gas into a brilliantly blackOzark sky. For once, you are a girl
unmolested. You could do this: be a girlwithout a home. Always gone. Perpetually leavingbehind Strip Mall, U.S.A & the darkgreen dumpster you raid for food, something to own& the two kids no one will take care of & the dreadthat comes on when their father squeezes your ass. Star,
let your freedom build slow like the death of a staracross the years. & when she calls for you—granddaughterof Elvis, confederate flag bikini, voice you dread—let the interstate's roar swallow her sound. In your leavingyou see the country for the first time. Your very ownseeing. When he howls for you, your body is a silent, black
barn hidden in wild grass & your locs—pastoral, black—are ropes for him, swinging from its rafters. Death star.It's easier than you imagined—leaving behind your ownmother. Her ghost. Her meth. And now you can be a girlon a back patio with three white men, & you can leavewith their money, egg suede cowboy hat adorning your dreads.
You swallowed the Mezcal worm of your fear.Now you're standing in the cowboy's convertible, black& flying in the camera's frame. You're leavingwith the get-away boy you found sparklingin a K-mart parking lot. You're keeping it alive—your girlhood,the adrenaline, the novelty, the dying star that you own [End Page 146]
a million miles away. You're learning how to ownyourself, how to be 14-deep in a 12-seater without dread,how to be disarmed, how to let it go when the white girlfrom Florida says nigga again, how to be the only blackgirl among strangers, dancing around a bonfire under the stars,singing out of the sunroof down the interstate. Leaving
each new town you meet and own a memory in, leavingbehind your mother's dread-veined eye. Her tragic star.Learn it all, girl, until what you've left behind is a brilliant black. [End Page 147]
Joy Priest is a writer from Louisville, Kentucky. She is the recipient of the 2016 Hurston/Wright Foundation's College Writers' Award, and has received support from the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and the Kentucky Arts Council. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of South Carolina, where she teaches and serves as Senior Editor for Yemassee Journal. Her poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Callaloo, Third Coast, and The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, among others.