Joy Priest 

Sorting Wheat



This is what I remember: 

my skin is summer—red-brown 

and singing; pappaw and I 

at his kitchen table, antique pennies 

stacked in leaning towers of ten; 

Dresden Avenue breeze reaching at us 

from the propped-open screen door 

while we search for the one 

worth more than the others,  

the exception. He learns me 

through magnified glass, offers

what he has of value: how to spot twin 

wheatheads sprouting up the curve 

of coin. His hands—translucent and veiny, 

tobacco-stained fingernails—sort 

through the pile of pennies 

along with mine. Sporadic scratch 

of worthless currency across cherry oak

makes rhythm with our impatient lungs, 

and I am still small enough to tuck 

myself into his lap, when I land a finger

on my first red cent, no Lincoln Memorial 

on its tail, only Depression-era stalks 

of unassuming wheat that hold the power 

to bring this good ole boy 

and his high yellow secret 

together. When we find ten we stack, 

slide a row down the paper wrapper. 

Copper cascades into dark, surely 

like salt water down the bone of his nose 

before he could have known I would be 

his exception.


Joy Priest was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She holds a print journalism degree from the University of Kentucky with a concentration in Creative Writing. At 24, she is one of the newest and youngest members of the Affrilachian Poets, and has been published in pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. She was awarded a fellowship to Callaloo Journal's 2013 Summer Creative Writing Workshop at Brown University.


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