My grandmother and her neighbor, Madonna Rhule, widow, would play Parcheesi three afternoons a week the summer I turned twelve in the Iowa heat, with over-dyed ivory markers that rattled like loose teeth. I would gnaw on the edge of a brick of frozen strawberries, cardboard packaging peeled off, discarded, heavy syrup congealing on the webbing between my pudgy fingers. Madonna and her dead husband, Archie, once had a son, they’d told me, who died the first day they’d opened the community pool in Centerville. There’d been a crowd, and they hadn’t found his body until they closed the gates for the day.
~ Heather Mydosh
Heather Mydosh is a transplant to Independence, Kansas where she teaches composition and literature at Independence Community College. She recently was awarded first place for poetry in the Kansas Voices contest for her poem “Strawberry Blood.” She holds her Masters of Literature from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland in Comparative Literature and Thought, where she spent countless nights immersed in dusty texts. Current interests include the Pleistocene extinction of North American mega fauna, the cultivation of peonies, vintage British automobiles, and pre-prohibition cocktails.
Melissa Fite Johnson, a high school English teacher, received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including I-70 Review, The Little Balkans Review, The New Verse News, velvet-tail, Inscape Magazine, Cave Region Review, The Invisible Bear, HomeWords: A Project of the Kansas Poet Laureate, Kansas Time + Place, Broadsided Press: 2014 Haiku Year in Review, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, and To the Stars through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices. In 2015, Little Balkans Press published her first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On. Melissa and her husband, Marc, live in Pittsburg with their dog and several chickens. (www.melissafitejohnson.com)
Melissa says, “What I love about this prose poem is that it starts out reminding me what it felt like to be nearly a teenager—long, hot afternoons with relatives in lieu of going out with friends or a boyfriend—and then there’s this gut punch of a surprise ending. I love Mydosh’s decision not to let the speaker react to Madonna’s story. It left me with the impression that this twelve-year-old had no idea what to say to comfort this woman, which struck me as so authentic.”