The Woman and the Wolf        by Melissa Fite Johnson

When I was nineteen,
he strangled me in his doorway.
Later he called the word “strangle”Melissa-Fite-Johnson_sm
dramatic. You could breathe fine.

Hand over my mouth, he shushed
into my ear. Later he said,

You can’t rape your girlfriend. 
The next morning I cried at Easter service,
quietly so my mother couldn’t hear.
Another bowed chin in a pew.

I imagined the wolf was a wounded bird
dreaming of flight. From a distance,
they’re not so different, his head
a wing puncturing the sky.

At night I lay awake while he slept.
I was nothing but pink flesh.

(Originally published in Rattle, April 2017)

Melissa Fite Johnson’s first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. She is also the author of A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky, winner of the 2017 Vella Chapbook Award (Paper Nautilus Press, 2018). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Sidereal, Stirring, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband and dogs in Lawrence, Kansas.

Guest Editor Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, and The Maine Review. Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices. She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly and is currently finishing a novel set in pre-Civil War Missouri.


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