dead the girl who told me
grade I was adopted. I’d believed her
dad. Four years later,
family’s car ran a stop sign
semi blew into their backseat.
her at a table with my father,
Adam’s apple plugging
cancer made. They don’t talk
town. They don’t talk about me.
I like to
think he has a dreamlike idea of me,
of her father. At the table,
tea. He tucks
cloth into his shirt. They’re together
isn’t that nicer than sitting alone.
Emily Dickinson in 2012
is at capacity again, this time
due to a
Jane Austen marathon.
Brandon, the way he
dripping wet Kate Winslet
safety. Some nights
chest and arms of a man,
especially if he just happened to appear
doorway the moment
fingers began their expert work
hour. No match.com.
me to the market
his best stock boy, Paul.
lunch in my cubicle
book so I won’t accidentally meet eyes
whisked me into the break room where
I couldn’t get out of my head
smell of Tom in accounting
belching his Dr. Pepper breath
the air next to mine
tried to eat my salad
at the counter where Kevin
marketing was making a sandwich,
sound of mayonnaise
slapping onto cold cuts
a hand across a bare ass.
my parents have gone
sleep, I open my laptop with the fanfare
removing a tarp from a Porsche.
I type these keys. Some nights
compose six or seven masterpieces.
Around two or three a.m.
print my newest collection of poems,
them up like love letters
them gently into the hope
at the foot of my bed.
I close each document
without saving a single one.
All poetry on this page
Copyright © by
Melissa Johnson, 2015
Ode to Washing Dishes
make sure your sink is under a window.
Look outside while you fill the basin. If daytime,
scrutinize your lawn. Do laugh
quarreling birds or your own yawning dog.
be kind to your reflection.
Appreciate your long arms that disappear
wrists and the wrinkles at your mouth.
think of this task as another in a hundred.
It is the
reward when those are done,
chocolate mousse after steamed vegetables.
hot water and bubbles,
lavender smell, the wine glass
left and soft terrycloth
your bare shoulder are not a comfort
late hour, then you are doing it all wrong.
bouquet—tying the stems
hanger and letting
the sunflower heads dangle.
vibrant colors drain like blood
from the face of a dying man.
couldn’t intentionally harden
petal into crumble
slightest touch. Instead,
my car across the street from
father’s grave and sidestepped
traffic. I said nothing and left
my flowers to dry under the Kansas sun.
mother of my childhood
propped up by the vacuum handle.
disappear at the ends
filmy sink water.
scrubs the kitchen floor the hard way,
instead of mop. She’s tired.
father’s cancer from sweeping
our tidy lives,
spray bottles and paper towels.
transformed the bathroom vent
flute smooth to caked fireplace ash.
pictured his lungs changing texture,
no longer a red flame
doused black matchstick.
hiding his cigarettes.
found them. Eventually,
the joy my mother took in controlling
could be. I polished the vent
pretty white cloth,
as she did her collection of tea spoons.
Instructions for a Day
hot dogs instead of one when
else is buying; take five-minute naps
innings three and six.
wins the animated condiment race,
someone proposes on the JumboTron
everyone yells “Say no!”
Appreciate extra innings; they mean free baseball
34,000 rally towels circling the air.
swoops from out of nowhere
the stages of life or foreplay,
better to have swung and missed—
that is important.
closer should come out
everyone sings his theme song,
team should win
bottom of the eleventh.