Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Posts tagged ‘Melissa Fite Johnson’

Newsfeed — by Melissa Fite Johnson

     For Tamir Rice, 2002-2014

Beautiful white boy,
freckles like cinnamon,
salutes the camera.
Sign pinned to his shirt:
This boy stands for our flag. 

How can I say

of course he stands,
this morning’s photograph,
whole world his. They kneel for
beautiful black boys,
yesterday’s photographs.

How can I say

if your son played with a toy gun
on his front steps,
a police officer might
call him soldier,
return his salute, drive away.

~Melissa Fite Johnson

Melissa Fite Johnson’s first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Review, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book.  Her poems have appeared in RattleValparaiso Poetry ReviewBroadsided Press, and elsewhere.   Melissa and her husband live with their dog and chickens in Kansas, where she teaches English at her old high school. For more, visit melissafitejohnson.com.

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.

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Hillary Clinton Becomes First Female Presidential Nominee — By Melissa Fite Johnson

So many white, so many
men, tape their mouths in protest
at the DNC. They black out signs.
Their eyes shine. They boo the black
congressman, the Hispanic
congresswoman. They chant.
They walk out. They will stay home
in November, chop fallen trees
into firewood, grill steaks while milking
beers for the last time this year.
They will stare at the black sky
while their neighbors’ TVs blare
too quietly to tell who won.
During roll-call, I cry. I cry but do not
post my joyful tears on Facebook,
where so many white, so many
men post cheater, criminal, cunt.
I do not think of these men. I think of
the women crying with me—
in Alabama, Wyoming, Maine,
in living rooms and Laundromats and bars,
college dorm rooms and cars, women
wishing their dead grandmothers
alive, women reliving sixth grade
career fairs, women with
daughters asleep in their beds.

Melissa Fite Johnson received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburgh 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 Tyler Robert Sheldon is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of First Breaths of Arrival (Oil Hill Press, 2016), and Traumas (Yellow Flag Press, 2017). His poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such venues as Quiddity International Literary Journal, The Midwest Quarterly, Coal City Review, The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, The Dos Passos Review, Entropy Magazine, and others. He earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, and is now an MFA candidate at McNeese State University. View his work at tyrsheldon.wixsite.com/trspoetry.

This is the Detail That Breaks Me — By Melissa Fite Johnson

In memoriam, Philando Castile,

killed by police at traffic stop

Philando Castile, cafeteria supervisor,

remembered which students

couldn’t have milk. I imagine

his kids lined up under the fluorescent

hum, pushing plastic trays across

the chrome lunch counter.  Yes to

mashed potatoes.  No to baked beans.

A little more corn, please. Last stop

before steering their trays to seats:

Phil handed each child a milk or juice

carton without asking, knowing their orders.
Now each child performs solo the quiet

act of reaching down into the chest

cooler, no one there to console them

with a smile or clap on the shoulder.

~ Melissa Fita 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 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, Maine Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, words (on pages), Midwest Quarterly, Kansas Time + Place, and in 150 Kansas Poets.  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. She is a founding member of the Astra Arts Festival in Independence, KS and was director of the visiting writers’ series at ICC. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices.  She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

A Tired Farmer Goes to Town — Greg German

–Fifth day, wheat harvest–

A locally scattered thundershower

comes through on a full stoked

locomotive wind, and slams

past his house. He gets out of bed

to watch, and stands there

in the storm’s confused

reflection, more a shadow

than a man. Raindrops.

big as boots,

kick at the windows.

Then it’s over.

The farmer can’t sleep.

At first light

he gets in his pick-up

and goes to look at his land.

The sun rides up

on a clear sky, a shiny spot

on a porcelain plate.

An eye-batting breeze

flirts with the damp

flour scent of a delayed

harvest. At the 5-mile corner

the farmer knows that he has drawn

out of a full-house.

He looks at his field

like it was never there.

When hail comes, size doesn’t

matter. Five minutes

of the pea-sized stuff

is all it takes

to iron a wheat field

flat. He is tired

and considers never going home.

At the restaurant, some men

are not tired at all. Conversation

spills across the contour

of damage. To stop the erosion,

they pull their best jokes

out of their pockets and plant them

between cups of coffee. Before noon

the farmer antes, and goes back

into his country. He greases his combine

and enjoys the dust.

~ Greg German

Originally Published in Kansas Quarterly, 1993 V.24, #4

Greg German was born and raised near Glen Elder, in north central Kansas, where he farmed with his family for many years. He currently lives in Kansas City, Kansas, with his wife Regina and son, Alden. He is a private consultant specializing in web site development, special project consulting, and photography. (http://www.limestone9consulting.com) He holds a B.A. degree in English/Creative writing and a B.S. in Education from Kansas State University.  Greg developed and maintains http://www.kansaspoets.com — a website unique to Kansas Poets. Greg’s poetry and personal essays have appeared in over 50 literary journals across the U.S.

Guest Editor 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.

Not My America — Katelyn Roth

I.

I have been

the sigh that plants hands firmly

on either side of the mouth and bursts out

like shattering ice, shards in the chest,

upon reaching home.
one who bargains with the remote’s blinking

battery light, promises things—a Clorox sponge bath,

name brand batteries—to keep from moving

to change the channel.
the arthritic finger on a gnarled hand, frozen

to trail after each passerby like a magnet

drags North or like heads turn when men hold hands.
II.

When the water rises, fire ants hitch together,

eggs gathered between them—they will float

for weeks, bobbing like Atlantis

before it angered the gods.
Maybe the same gravel road that led away

will lead us home. Maybe the sea

won’t swallow us this time.

~ Katelyn Roth

Katelyn Roth graduated from Pittsburg State University with degrees in Creative Writing and Psychology. She has been previously published in the campus literary magazine Cow Creek Review. Currently, she resides in Pittsburg with her husband and dog, working at an insurance office while on hiatus from her Masters in Creative Writing.

If I Told You I Live in the Planetarium — by Joshua Davis

would you believe me?
It’s true. Watch me chart an invisible line connecting the moles on your neck

with the ones on your hand and left thigh. Bottled storm, the windows are open.
Take my hand. Walk me through every room:

hallways where thunderheads cluster and brood,
dim alcoves lit only by schools of bright fish,
one smoky-blue pool room, where women

take women into their arms like wrapped parcels, and men watch themselves in the mirrors,
the glint of skin stretched over their hearts, fingernails

trilling down the keys of another man’s spine. Let your fingers fall half-step by half-step, and when we’re sick of smoke and hibiscus,

we’ll wander among the apiary rows.
I’ll let that sugared singing teach me how to praise you—all things buzzing, all things sweet.

~ Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis holds MFAs from the University of Southern Maine and from the University of Mississippi. He earned an M.A. in English at Pittsburg State University. Recent poems have appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Monster Verse, and Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters.

Guest Editor 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.

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.

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