When I was five my friend answered me:
Her skin was dark because
she bathed in special oils. Her mother’s
heavy accent scolded her lie, but
I didn’t know what it was like
for classmates to ask to touch my hair,
the way I ask passersby
on my nightly walk if I can pet their dog.
~Melissa Fite Johnson
Melissa Fite Johnson received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Her first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. Her poems have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, The New Verse News, velvet-tail, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. For more, visit melissafitejohnson.com.
Guest Editor Z. Hall is a poet whose work often features ekphrasis, and explores race, gender, and culture. She is an essayist and has served as a PEN Prison Writing Mentor. She was a 2016-17 writer-in-residence at the Charlotte Street Foundation. In 2017, Hall curated the first international visual art exhibition featuring beneficial bacterial as the subject matter and medium of artists of disparate disciplines and scientists whose work crosses boundaries into artistic expression.
As an art writer and scholar, Hall’s peer-reviewed publications include works on Beyoncé and Jay Z’s ‘Drunk in Love,’ the field recordings of Stephen Wade’s “The Beautiful Music All Around Us,” emergence of the Christian film industry in Lindvall and Quicke’s “Celluloid Sermons,” and the political cartoons of the 2005 Muhammad Cartoon Controversy as rhetorical art, among other works. Hall is the Executive Director and Producer of Salon~360, a monthly, Kansas City regional event that brings together artists whose work focuses on challenging societal issues, for which she was awarded an ArtsKC Inspiration Grant.