In Every Childhood Photo — by Melissa Fite Johnson

My brother wrote stiff thank-you notes
to his biological sisters in Micronesia
who mailed us chocolate macadamia nuts.
They weren’t his real sisters.
He played King of the Couch with me,
pinned my squirming arms down.

Our mother told me not to see color.
My brother showed me I must.
More than once, he shook his arm,
his brown skin, in Mom’s bewildered face.

In every childhood photo
my blond head rests against my father’s
blond head. My mother holds
my brother’s hand. Her white fingers
and his brown fingers make the church,
the steeple, a whole diverse congregation.


(Originally published in Stirring Lit, Summer 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.

April Editor Roy Beckemeyer‘s latest book is Mouth Brimming Over (2019, Blue Cedar Press).


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