Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Posts tagged ‘Melissa Fite Johnson’

Excuses for Not Marching and Then a Poem — by Melissa Fite Johnson

1. Dry throat I must coat with water or I’ll cough.

2. Dog-sitting for a friend so she can march.

3. The angry parent who checked Facebook

to confirm I’m a liberal teacher.

 

He might find this poem.

It makes me squirm, the thought he could take

my thoughts from my head. My old professor

always says, It’s easier not to write.

Today, it was easier not to lurch

open the garage, turn the key, thrust myself

into history, into the brave crowd

filling their lungs with songs instead of doubt.

My body won’t speck a grainy photograph.

 

August 28, 1963, a young girl rested

her arm on a rail, her head on her arm. The video

unspools her at “sweltering with the heat of

oppression.” Every phrase was

a lighted match. Each flame passed through her.

 

January 21, 2017, what words, what fire

I could have carried home like a torch.

~ Melissa Fite Johnson

“3 Excuses for Not Marching and Then a Poem,”appeared on New Verse News.

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 have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. For more, visit melissafitejohnson.com. “Excuses for Not Marching and Then a Poem,” appeared on New Verse News.

Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, is winner of the Red Mountain Press Editor’s Choice Award for Shadow Light. Other books are a memoir, The Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (U. of Nebraska Press) and A Casino Bestiary: Poems (Spartan Press). Jackalope, fiction, was acclaimed by Pennyless (U.K.), American Book Review, and New Letters. She has won 3 Ks. Notable Book Awards and recognition from PSA, Roberts Foundation, Lichtor Award, NEH, and more. Low has an MFA (Wichita State U.) and Ph.D. (Ks.U.). She teaches for Baker University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies. www.deniselow.net

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The Credits — By Matthew David Manning

I remember once you sat when all others stood up

and headed toward the exit. The others followed

the illuminated floor lights, a woman in uniform

held a trash bag in her hands and said, “Thank you,”

 

and not one replied, “I should be thanking you.”

It was the month God told you to appreciate,

so every time we watched a movie,

you told me I could leave if I wanted,

but you wanted to see all the credits in silence.

 

When the cleaning crew shuffled into the theater,

surprised to find people still seated, you politely

asked me what I thought of the movie while staying

with the credits like you were waiting for a sign.

~ Matthew David Manning

Matthew David Manning is an English instructor at Pittsburg State University (PSU) in the Intensive English Program. Matthew holds degrees in creative writing from Arizona State University and PSU. His poetry has appeared various publications including I-70 Review, Red Paint Hill, Rust + Moth, Kansas Time + Place, and Chiron Review.

Guest Editor 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 have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. 

So Many Towns Away — By Cody Shrum

The Kansas night sky feels like home.
Those stars soften the empty black
and comfort me, so many towns away
from home where I imagine
Mom is thinking about me.

Mom sits on the front porch, swinging
in the glider, one foot dangles.
She puffs a cigarette, tip blazing
like her chipped nail polish,
sends swirls of smoke upward
into the nothing that joins the stars.

The wind blows, the streetlight flickers
on and off and back on again.
A chained mutt down the street barks,
rusted metal clacks barely audible.
Mom is unfazed.
She’s waited all day to live this moment,
nothing left to distract her thinking.

Both her boys off to college now,
so many towns away.
The house holds less breath, so she’s turned
our bedroom lights on.
She’s scattered the house with the clothes
we left behind, to trick herself.
She’s sat in both our beds to fill the cold
blankets with some kind of warmth.
She’s checked all the channels on TV,
but nothing’s on.

Now she finishes her last cigarette.
Sips the last sips of her sweetened coffee.
Under the stars, calm, her breathing
is slow, deliberate.

Inside the phone rings.
She flicks her cigarette into the dampening grass,
grabs her slick mug, and hops inside
to find my name on the caller I.D.

~ Cody Shrum

Cody Shrum is a first-year MFA candidate studying fiction at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His poetry has appeared in such magazines as Rust + Moth, Kansas Time + Place, and velvet-tail, as well as the anthology, Kansas Time + Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry. Cody and his wife, Kylee, live in Kansas City with their two dogs, Zoey and Zeus.

Guest Editor 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 have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. 

A Body of Lies — By Gregory Stapp

I‘m rich as a bank of loans,

my money stacks high and green

as a forest drenched in rain,

a slope of low mountain in the mist.

 

Famous as a marauding saint,

my arms swing out wide and bracing

as an incomplete circle of petrospheres,

a horseshoe of stars cupping the moon.

 

I am strong as a taurean bull.

Watch the way I pull at the weight,

how my eyes alight with the strain,

how my shoulders quake like engines.

 

My heirs will rule the earth like suns.

Watch as they grow tall and searing,

how their feet leave sooted prints,

how their arms sway like a burning bush.

 

My heart will beat a thousand rhythms

for every tap of your finger on the table.

I stampede horses through your living room

until the sun has steeped your tea.

~ Gregory Stapp

 

Gregory Stapp received his BA from the University of Oklahoma and his MFA from Queens

University of Charlotte. His poems have appeared in, Lime Hawk Journal, Shot Glass, The Ekphrastic Review, and Forage, among others. He recently served as the Poetry Editor for Qu: A Literary Magazine.

Guest Editor 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 have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. 

What I Learned From Fire — By Julie Ramon

Sometimes, you find bits of yourself
in the ash, embers you roll over
with your foot. Be careful—
some things are too big to control.
It moves without asking,
the way a person touches another,
a risk, a door to a warm or cool place.
It speaks words that aren’t there.
It will tell you where to go from here.
And, like all good things, it will die.
And this stumbling too has saved you.

~ Julie Ramon

Julie Ramon is an English instructor, specializing in English as a second language, at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. She also teaches academic writing at Crowder College in Missouri. She graduated with an M.F.A from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Among writing, her interests include baking, sewing, traveling, and garage sales. She lives in Joplin, Missouri with her husband, son and daughter.


Guest Editor 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 have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. 

Coal — By Laura Lee Washburn

You think of something smashed, compressed

fluidless, dense, chafing at its elbows,

formed by weight and gravity and time.

 

You think of something that tears

as it goes. How using it warms and harms.

How finding it, destroys. The earth rumbles.

 

My body, some mornings, at fifty-one

is ruined bone, solid, unmoved,

tense and waiting, coal unlit,

energy of the sun stuck again.

~ Laura Lee Washburn

 

Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerseNews, Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review. Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in Missouri. She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky and is one of the founders and the Co-President of the Board of SEK Women Helping Women.

Guest Editor 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 have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. 

Privileged – Melissa Fite Johnson

Melissa-Fite-Johnson_sm

Melissa Fite Johnson

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.

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