All night, men reach up
to touch her ankles.
Mornings, on her stoop
she smokes while
the neighbor kid asks
about all her favorite things.
“What’s your favorite
thing to feel?” he asks,
holding up his softest
blanket, giving it a rub
between his finger
and his thumb.
She wants to tell him
her favorite thing
to feel is love,
but keeps coming back
to the secret she
discovered a week ago.
Waking in the night
her left arm, dead asleep,
was a limb of luscious flesh;
foreign and remote. She used
her working hand to lift it
and rest it on her chest.
The sensational feeling
of her own sensationless skin
surprised her. Startled,
she thought of Narcissus
swallowed up and drowned
in his own sweetness. Lost.
So soft, so soft. She never knew,
never understood all those
desperate reaching hands.
—Previously published in the anthology Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington (Other Mind Press, 2015); appears here with author’s permission.
is a poet and a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. Her literary debut, Patriarchy Blues, was honored with a 2018 American Book Award. Her most recent collection, Sublime Subliminal, was published by Floating Bridge Press. She is the recipient of an Allied Arts Foundation Professional Poets Award, and residency fellowships from Hedgebrook, Hawthornden Castle, and Mineral School. She is a National Geographic Explorer and a 2019 Jack Straw Writer. Priest has works published at Verse Daily, poets.org, Poetry Northwest, High Country News, YES! Magazine, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and lives near Bellingham, Washington.
Poet’s website: www.renapriest.com
Canadian Tuxedo, a poem by Rena Priest in Sweet Tree Review
(Volume 3, Issue 2, Spring 2018)
Flagrant Delicto in Pontoon Poetry (Issue 14,
The Kind of Heroes We Need to Actually Save the Planet by Rena
Priest in Yes! (5 November 2020), a call to action to fellow authors which
Storytellers are the makers of culture and the shapers of consciousness. The word
“author” is from the Latin word auctus, which translates
literally to “one who causes to grow.” As storytellers, we plant beliefs
that blossom into the structure of the world. In these times, we need a new
structure—a narrative built on climate justice.
Reciprocity in the Age of Extinction (“After so much taking,
it’s time to give”) in Nautilus Oceans (September 2020)
⚡ A captive orca and a chance for our redemption (“Tokitae
has spent nearly 50 years in captivity. It’s time she returned home.”)
in High Country News (April 2020), written by Rena Priest with support
of the National Geographic Explorers program