Tuesday, December 29, 2015

High School Pep Band by Melissa Fite Johnson

My flute part never sounded like the song
on its own. When I practiced,
my brother poked his head in my room,
asked if I had any idea what the hell I was doing.
But with the band, the flutes’ voices
soared higher than even the trumpets’
bold balloon squeaks.

The trumpets—and indeed the trombones,
saxes, tubas, even clarinets—
none of them questioned our worth.
We had each other’s backs. We had to.

At the basketball games, we held a kind of
nerd power. No one said much
to us in classes or the halls, but they
loved us at games. They yelled
the words to every song. Together we lifted
those boys, high as the cheerleaders
somersaulting into the air. We were
part of something on those nights.
We were really in high school.

On Mondays we were back to visitor status,
stepping aside to let a row of letter jackets pass.

Melissa Fite Johnson’s poetry has appeared in such publications as I-70 Review, The New Verse News, and Inscape Magazine. Her first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award. Melissa and her husband live in Kansas, where she teaches English. Her website: melissafitejohnson.com.

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