Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Posts tagged ‘Melissa Fite Johnson’

Olive Street House Concerts by Melissa Fite Johnson

1478989_10151821111791994_1022361121_nDinner first. In this small kitchen,

everyone becomes friends quickly. We

brush shoulders as we make our way

to the patio and back to the potluck.

Sometimes the stranger we strike up with

turns out to be the musician

in the makeshift concert hall—a living room

missing its coffee table and couch, lined

instead with chairs. Years ago, Rob built

a stage where most would put a TV.

Carol hung twinkle lights and

fastened a spotlight to the chandelier.

 

Then the concert, a few hours

with nomads from Austin, the Ozarks,

Scranton. They play guitar, upright bass,

harmonica. They play the fiddle and banjo.

Their voices are clear and strong:
This one’s for my niece,

in too big a hurry to grow up.

This one’s about my haunted apartment.

This one’s for the man

I thought I’d marry but didn’t.

This one’s about the VW van I took

on tour that broke down twelve times.
Listening, we could feel boring

for having become teachers. Why didn’t we

learn guitar, get over stage fright

by performing to a crowd of Cabbage Patch kids?

We should’ve marked up maps with stars

for every place we ever wanted to go,

plotted tours by connecting all those dots.
Or—and this is what I recommend—

we can just feel happy

to have found this private clubhouse,

where the password is $12

and coffee cake or calamari. We can feel

happy for food in our bellies and songs

in our ears, happy Rob and Carol have

opened their home. Happy that

in these nights, we become another story to tell.

Melissa Fite Johnson received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburg State University in Kansas.  She was the featured poet in the Fall 2015 issue of The Journal: Inspiration for the Common Good.  Individual poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such publications as Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Rust + Moth, The Invisible Bear, I-70 Review, Inscape Magazine, 3 Elements Review, Red Paint Hill Journal, Whale Road Review, Bear Review, The New Verse News, and velvet-tail.  In 2015, Little Balkans Press published her first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On, which won the Kansas Authors Club Nelson Poetry Book Award.  Melissa and her husband live in Kansas, where she teaches English.  Feel free to connect with her at melissafitejohnson.com.

Pat Daneman has lived in Lenexa, Kansas since 1986. Recent work appears on the art and literature website, Escape Into Life, in The Moon City Review, I-70 Review, Bellevue Poetry Review, and The Comstock Review. Her chapbook, Where the World Begins, was published in 2015 by Finishing Line Press.

Late July in Pittsburg, KS by Matthew David Manning

A goldenrod sun forces throughMatthew Manning Photo

a humid Kansas sky. A child plays

with cheap snapping fireworks.

Gravel, silver fulminate,

and his sense of power are wrapped

in cigarette paper shaped like teardrops.

One at a time, he throws and pops them.

 

His older brother looks down from a toolbox

on the bed of his father’s truck. He says nothing.

He offers only his eyes to watch,

and nods of encouragement.

The cement street is covered in wrinkles;

its gutters are cluttered with wrappers.

 

The boy’s front yard looks like a garage sale

of trash and toys: Empty Marlboro

cases, burnt Hot Wheels cars,

and bruised dog toys. Their dog watches

the boy throwing snappers. The boy

ignores the dog’s bark and warning.

~ Matthew David Manning

Matthew David Manning is a poet from Pittsburg, Kansas where he teaches at Pittsburg State University in the Intensive English Program. Matthew holds degrees in creative writing from Arizona State University and Pittsburg State University. Matthew is passionate about educating non-native English speakers about poetry, and recently returned from spending two years in Suzhou, China. (www.mattwritenow.com)

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, “I love the mystery in this poem. I was struck mostly by the sweetness of the older brother—how rare, this show of unwavering support for a little sibling, no criticisms or jabs—but then the poem ends with burnt and bruised toys and on the dog’s warning, which the boy ignores. The ending left me with an uneasy feeling, like there was more to this story than we’re allowed to see. I want more—I want a whole series of poems about this family.”

Smoky Hill Winery, Salina, Kansas by Sarah Chenoweth

On the hottest day of a Salina summer,Chenoweth, Sarah

when even blessed grapes feel foul

and the sun sears the skins

of all living things,

I sit shaded under awning and toast the heat

which has created an accord with my body.

 

Sweet Smoky Hill sweat begins to form on,

but does not evaporate from,

my loosely crossed legs

as I melt into stasis,

on this shaded hill, with the

leafless Western plain.

 

I imagine the sweat soaking through my cotton dress,

staining it purple in robust, floral patterns.

I imagine it reversing its course,

like a river after drought,

reabsorbing itself back into my thighs

tracking through my stomach, up my esophagus,

and spilling out across my lips—

these tears, aromatic and sweet against the salt in my glands.

~ Sarah Chenoweth

Sarah Chenoweth is a graduate of both the English and Communication M.A. programs at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, and has been published in PSU’s Cow Creek Review. She has achieved little else thus far; happy to focus on Being, rather than Doing.

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, “I love ‘moment’ poems, and this one is especially lovely. Instead of the speaker’s mind wandering to an expected topic (a loved one, a sick dog), she stays perfectly in the present. I am no good at meditation, but I feel like that ending is trying to teach me how it’s done.”

Strawberry Blood by Heather Mydosh

H Mydosh Headshot 2014My 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.”

Good Housekeeping by Melissa Fite Johnson

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.

 

II.

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.

“Ode to Washing Dishes” by Melissa Fite Johnson

1478989_10151821111791994_1022361121_nOde to Washing Dishes

First, make sure your sink is under a window.
Look outside while you fill the basin. If daytime,
don’t scrutinize your lawn. Do laugh
at quarreling birds or your own yawning dog.
If night, be kind to your reflection.
Appreciate your long arms that disappear
at the wrists and the wrinkles at your mouth.

Don’t think of this task as another in a hundred.
It is the reward when those are done,
the chocolate mousse after steamed vegetables.
If the hot water and bubbles,
the lavender smell, the wine glass
to your left and soft terrycloth
against your bare shoulder are not a comfort
in this late hour, then you are doing it all wrong.

[

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.

chosen by Dennis Etzel Jr.

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. His chapbook The Sum of Two Mothers was released by ELJ Publications in 2013, and his work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, DIAGRAM, and others. He is a TALK Scholar and Speaker for the Kansas Humanities Council, and volunteers for the YWCA of Topeka and Midland Hospice. His website is http://www.dennisetzeljr.com.

Dennis says, “This poem is brilliant, not just for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary, but does so in the instructional “how to” tone. This says to enjoy one’s self in place and time, to not ‘think of this task as another in a hundred.’ This poem is helpful in a time of need.”

The Dead by Melissa Fite Johnson

I wished dead the girl who told meBio pic

in third grade I was adopted. I’d believed her

over my dad. Four years later,

her family’s car ran a stop sign

and a semi blew into their backseat.

 

I picture her at a table with my father,

a new Adam’s apple plugging

the hole cancer made. They don’t talk

about the town. They don’t talk about me.

The dead don’t remember.

I like to think he has a dreamlike idea of me,

and she of her father. At the table,

she pours tea. He tucks

the lace cloth into his shirt. They’re together

because isn’t that nicer than sitting alone.

 

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.

Lori Baker Martin is Kansas Time + Place editor for the month of May. She lives and works in Southeast Kansas where she is  teaching English at Independence Community College. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin,  The Little Balkans Review,Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, Midwest Quarterly, Kansas Time + Place, 150 Kansas Poets, and in a Kansas Notable Book poetry collection To the Stars Through Difficulties. She’sbeen awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices.  Martin is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop where she was named a Truman Capote Fellow and received the Clark Fischer Ansley Award for Excellence in Fiction.

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