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Thursday, January 26, 2017


by Melissa Fite Johnson

A woman wears a Statue of Liberty crown and holds a torch at the Women’s March in New York on Saturday. Credit Sara Hylton/The New York Times via Alaska Dispatch News, January 22, 2017

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’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.