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"River" • Joni Mitchell (by Melissa Fite Johnson)


Love, so ordinary it stars every song. It’s boring,

how every couple in love thinks they invented it.

Maybe a miracle should be more miraculous,

more spaceship, more pushing up from the wheelchair

to walk, more talking the shooter out of it.

We miracle every sunset, miracle the moon. Still—

Joni Mitchell wrote River a decade before my birth.

Nothing to do with me. But in 1988, I was seven

and the song accompanied Kevin Arnold’s lonely walk

on Christmas. Green letter jacket, tartan scarf,

he dressed like the trees she sang about.

Hands in his pockets, wishing Winnie Cooper

loved him back. I wasn’t too young

to understand—it would take a miracle.



Melissa Fite Johnson 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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