Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Monday, August 15, 2016


by Melissa Fite Johnson

I. Before

After Kansas City soccer, Children’s Mercy
Park, we drive south for home, two hours away.
The world’s tallest water slide looms at Schlitterbahn,
lit green at night, the spiral walk-up staircase
Godzilla’s head and body, the slide its tongue
unfurling.  Who would ride that monstrosity,
my husband and I joke, and it is a joke, menacing
as that structure is, because we’re safe in our car,
or feel we are at least, our breakable bodies and soft flesh
dashing down the highway in our aluminum bubble.

II. After

I imagine the boy they found in the pool
also felt safe, at least initially, strapped in his raft.
Higher than Niagara; faster than a cheetah;
steeper than any ski slope!  The website called the slide
jaw-dropping.  The website called the slide
gut-wrenching.  I shouldn’t read the stories.  They don’t
bring him back.  They all show the same picture:
brown eyes freckled nose dark hair baseball cap.
Baseball bat on his shoulder.  Ears like mine, elfish
tips that stick out, tinged red from the sun warming his back.

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.  Her poems have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Rust + Moth, Broadsided Press, velvet-tail, and elsewhere.  Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas.