My Grandparents at the Piano

After PaPa died, MaMa gave us grandchildren
a recording of them at the piano, not singing,
plunking out Methodist hymns. From the record’s
first static-filled breath, I can picture them
younger than I am now, him on the left
lifting the heavy notes, her with closed eyes
until he goosed her in the ribs. Neither sang,
but both sometimes hummed, the loud kind
that slips out only when the mind
isn’t occupied with even the smallest troubles.

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 second book, Ghost Sign (Spartan Press, 2016), is a collaboration with fellow Kansas poets Al Ortolani, J. T. Knoll, and Adam Jameson. Her poems have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Rust + Moth, Broadsided Press, The Midwest Quarterly, velvet-tail, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. For more, visit

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