Poems by Melissa Fite Johnson


Let’s Say the Afterlife Is Real


It helps. My mother and I visit my father’s grave,
her name next to his. Is it a comfort
that my father is waiting, here if nowhere else?
Half of him anyway, the other half
buried somewhere else. My mother wants
to be halved, too, split between her loves,
first and last. Ashes, I should mention,
not sawed in half like the girl on stage waving
from her coffin. I am trying to mourn now,
as if I could ease the load for my future self.
My mother becomes an expression,
walking over her own grave, her future,
her lack of a future. Every blade of grass bristles.


My Paranoia Considers the Song I Wrote at Age Ten


I took to my keyboard, wrote new lyrics for Open Arms by Journey,
though I didn’t know it was Open Arms by Journey, I’d heard it
without realizing. Memory’s so strange, I still mouth my words

instead of theirs: Sometimes it feels like / I’m all alone. /
Nobody’s there / when I come home
. Age ten, I wrote this,
living with two loving parents. I knew nothing of nobody there,

everybody there always, asking me to empty the dishwasher
or make my bed. What I longed for: solitude. I wrote the opposite.
I’m still writing the opposite, writing my father’s death into

every poem, even this one, when my life now is so happy
I’m guilty about it. My loving husband. My three cute dogs
everyone we pass on walks agrees are cute. Shouldn’t I stop

pretending just because poets are supposed to be sad?
Sometimes it feels like / I won’t die alone. / My husband’s there /
when I come home
. Even at ten I knew—no one wants to hear that shit.


Melissa Fite Johnson is the author of Green (Riot in Your Throat, 2021) and A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky, winner of the 2017 Vella Chapbook Award (Paper Nautilus Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Pleiades, SWWIM, and elsewhere. Melissa and her husband live with their dogs in Lawrence, KS, where she teaches high school English.



Back to Table of Contents