Dinner 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.