Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

I.Bio pic

The mother of my childhood

is propped up by the vacuum handle.

Her arms disappear at the ends

into filmy sink water.

She scrubs the kitchen floor the hard way,

sponge instead of mop. She’s tired.


She won’t stop

my father’s cancer from sweeping

through our tidy lives,

but she is armed

with spray bottles and paper towels.



My father’s smoking

transformed the bathroom vent

from flute smooth to caked fireplace ash.

I pictured his lungs changing texture,

his heart no longer a red flame

but the doused black matchstick.


I tried hiding his cigarettes.

He always found them. Eventually,

I learned the joy my mother took in controlling

what could be. I polished the vent

with a pretty white cloth,

tenderly as she did her collection of tea spoons.

~ Melissa Fite Johnson

Melissa Fite Johnson teaches English at Pittsburg High School in Kansas. She’s had poetry published in magazines such as Sotto Voce, The Little Balkans Review, and Inscape Magazine, and in a Kansas Notable Book poetry collection To the Stars Through Difficulties. The Little Balkans Press will publish her first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On, this year. Melissa and her husband, Marc, live in Pittsburg with their dog and several chickens.

Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Word Riot, and the New York Quarterly. His fifth collection of poems, Waving Mustard in Surrender, was released in 2014 from New York Quarterly Books. Currently, he is teaching English in the Blue Valley School District and serves on the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Writers Place.


Comments on: "Good Housekeeping by Melissa Fite Johnson" (3)

  1. What a heart-warming tribute (and finely crafted poem) – strikes me as a clear-eyed but tender love song to your mother. Wow!

  2. Thank you so much, Roy! I just now noticed this comment, and it made my day.

  3. Nicely done. I like the way you’ve understated emotion in strong, clear images. I like this a lot.

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