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  • Melissa Fite Johnson

The Gap

Updated: Jan 22

By Melissa Fite Johnson

I wear my new boots with dresses to school

like Claire Danes in My So-Called Life

which I rewatched recently                  which totally holds up


though what did I ever see in Jordan? Obviously

             Rickie Vasquez the real treasure here

I mentioned this show to my students

who never know what I’m talking about

Yesterday I said Hi Sam

                                      to my student Sam

                                      and then made the guitar sound

                                      that accompanies Sam’s ladder

                                      on Clarissa Explains It All

It stars Melissa Joan Hart        I explained

She’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch

which also meant nothing

My students wear Doc Martens

but have never seen 90210


They do not understand

Donna’s father was literally Doc Martin         They did not cry

when Luke Perry died                               though they know him

from Riverdale

He’s just the dad

                                         He’s not the most beautiful boy in the world


And I said Excuse me

Google Imaged that white T-shirt

             those sideburns

             that slow smile

My job is to teach them


Poem with Three Endings

By Melissa Fite Johnson

My student asks What does this have to do with anything?

as I tell the story of my father dying. I stammer.

We must be vulnerable but we must be ready. Earn it.

Next semester I’ll be someone else, cool and tall,

not hunched like my mother who finally succeeded

in folding in on herself, making herself small.


What does this have to do with anything? This is why

we’re here—to live and to die, for someone to care.

What does this have to do with anything? Get out. Have the counselor put you in Comparative Myth.


What does this have to do with anything? In this poem, record him. Let him read it and feel something like shame.


Melissa Fite Johnson is our new poetry editor at Porcupine Literary! She is the author of three full-length collections, most recently Midlife Abecedarian (Riot in Your Throat, 2024). Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Pleiades, HAD, Whale Road Review, SWWIM, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches high school English in Lawrence, KS, where she and her husband live with their dogs.

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