Annual Veterans Memorial Day Service

My eyes wander to a girl and her American Girl. 
The girl is Asian, her doll blonde, 
flecks of ink freckle porcelain cheeks. 
American Girl discontinued its only Asian doll. 
The girl loves her baby, has dressed her
in a star-spangled outfit matching her own.  

My brother wrote stiff thank-you notes
to biological sisters who mailed us chocolate
macadamia nuts. He played King of the Couch
with me, pinned my squirming arms down. 
My mom told me not to see color. 
My brother showed me I must. 
During a fight, he shook his arm, 
his copper skin, in Mom’s bewildered face. 
The veterans’ ceremony is ending. 
A black soldier places a wreath on a white easel. 
A white soldier reads a list of the dead, 
releases black balloons. The guns startle. 
Tinny muted trumpets play. The girl
carries her doll by the foot. We all walk to our cars.



Melissa Fite Johnson received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburg State University in Kansas.  Her poems have appeared in Rattle, 3 Elements Review, Midwest Quarterly, velvet-tail, and elsewhere.  Her first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Review, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book.   Melissa and her husband live with their dog and chickens in Kansas, where she teaches English.  For more, visit