Poems by Chelsie Blair Nunn


The Starboard Side


you grew up in the richest
city in Tennessee while
I grew up in the poorest
per capita we fed chickens
yet I am obsessed with the Vanderbilts
how they shook the fate of
the Titanic’s ice caps
I part my hair in the middle and
slick it down to my buzzed sides
look like someone with money
late 1800s educated
a good sum of land
my appeal is somehow retroactive
I didn’t mean to find out
about our bringing ups
the richest and the poorest
polar ice cap fate
brought your ship to my frigid
mass across your hull
I simply googled
tallest point in Tennessee


Is that Real Gucci? 


dreamed my mother smiled at me
no, not that sticker she puts on
strained indigestible string bean
hanging from her face like hay
even a llama looks happier than she does
with her elbows on the table
expecting me to say something to her
clasped hands, her eyebrows raised
by impossible cranes situated on
slabs of half-cooked hamburger patties
they were in the Air Fryer forever, I swear
she used her capable hands to smash
them into the thinnest meat circle
something that was alive now
reduced to geometry and temperature
a joke between my brother-in-law and me
whether or not we will vomit later
I’m already sick; I arrived that way
slid outta the tube with generational damage
many capable hands smashed
my brain into a thin meat circle
been in the Air Fryer forever, I swear
yet, even half-done I still know
when something is real
a smile in a dream


Chelsie Blair Nunn (she/they) is a LGBTQIA+ artist and educator working in Knoxville, Tennessee. They teach visual art and maintain a professional studio art practice, which includes writing poetry. They grew up in rural Appalachia, and this greatly influences their artwork, writing, and teaching practice. Their grandmother told them stories of life as a poor farm girl–she brushed their teeth with willow branches. She canned corn and beans to survive the frigid mountain winters. She smelled like the coal furnace used to warm her house.


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