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Concrete Perspectives

Writings From the Newton Correctional Facility


Fall 2008-Spring 2009
Thanks to all those who made the Concrete
Perspectives possible, and who gave their time,
energy, and passion this year at NCF.
NCF Staff: Evelyn Oltmanns (Librarian), Cindy Conn (Unsung
Hero), Larry Lipscomb (Treatment Director), Terry Mapes
(Warden), Jill Dursky (Associate Warden), and Kathy Wilson (Life
Skills Coordinator).
Grinnell Professors: Grinnell Students:
Kathleen Skerrett Susan and Leah (Creative Writing/Reading,
Chris French Poetry)
Timothy Dobe Rebecca and Camille (Art as Portraiture)
Victoria Brown Liting and Yuyang (Calculus & Intermediate
Bob Cadmus Math)
Tom Moore Ashur and Eric (Creative Writing/Poetry &
Erik Simpson White Noise)
Henry Rietz Jess and Leah (Life Writing)
Leslie Gregg-Jolly Caitlin and Emma (Playwriting)
George Drake Emily (Beyond Comics)
Eric McIntyre Junayd, Alex, and Ashur (Islam in the Mod-
Mike Guenther ern World)
Elizabeth Prevost James and Ari (Steinbeck)
Tom Simmons Emily and Grant (The Brother Karamazov)
Mark Schneider Sarah, Kat, and Rachel (Short Stories)
Jonathan Andelson John, Michael, and Gabriel (Beginning/Inter-
Elizabeth Queathem mediate Math)
Karla Erickson Anna (Gandhi/Desmond Tutu/John Paul II)
Lee Running Kelsey (Creative Writing)
Sigmund Barber
David Campbell
Jean Ketter
Wayne Moyer
Writing Tutors: Betty, Janet, Elizabeth, Carolyn, and Mark
A special thanks to: Katie Jares, Marilynne Robinson, Marvin Bell,
and Anne Scott.
Finally, we would like to thank Emily Guenther and Erik Ritter for
their unparalleled compassion and flawless determination in coordi-
nating the Grinnell Prison Education Program.
Some words from the inmate editors:

“Imagine…” That was John Lennon’s wish for all of us. I’ve been
fortunate to have been involved in editing this publication and in the
Grinnell College/NCF program since its inception several years ago.
In the beginning, none of us envisioned the magnitude of growth
that the program would attain. This volume of Concrete Perspectives
is a reflection of that growth, as is the number and variety of classes
taught by student volunteers and professors. It is due—in no small
part—to the hard work, energy, and spirit of those who make the
weekly trek to the prison to teach us. Their lessons go far beyond the
handouts, books, discussions, lectures, and assignments. It is through
their efforts and generosity that we learn the most. In an environ-
ment that can easily bury one’s spirit alive, we have had the gift of
imagination given back to us. As you read the pieces in this collec-
tion—some dark, some light, all the product of minds trying to find a
sense of self and freedom—I hope that your imagination will fly, too.
Included are poems, short stories, plays, and essays. The styles
and genres vary widely. I hope that you enjoy them all. I also hope
that they serve as an inspiration, inviting you to try your hand at writ-
ing or any other yen you have dreamt about.
I want to profusely thank the many folks who have made
Concrete Perspectives come to life. None of this would’ve been
possible without the generous support of SPARC. Thank you very
much! To all of the Grinnell College students, professors, and guest
lecturers—we are eternally grateful for all that you continually give us.
Words alone will never be adequate.
Emily, you rock… but you knew that. Eric—I see your ef-
forts paying off in dividends of change, unlimited potential, and
much success. Katie… well, you’re the standard that we all strive to
measure up to. It has been a real privilege. Susan—thanks for your
guidance and help in putting this book together! Anne—we miss you
and hope to see you soon, pushing us to greater heights and distanc-
es.
Evelyn Oltmanns—your tireless energy and efforts are amaz-
ing. Very few people understand how much you have really invested
in the program and in us. The successes are a reflection of that
investment.
Jason, you have brought a lot to the program in your role
as class coordinator. It’s a difficult job at best and your personality,
patience, idealism, quick wit, and humor have made it an experi-
ence worth being a part of. I am grateful that you took the reins and
helped to drive the program in such a positive direction. Very few
people could accomplish what you have. You’re a good man.
To my family and friends—Howard, Antje, David, Teresa,
and Avis—I wish I could give you a portion of what you have always
given me.
This has been one of the most influential, positive experienc-
es of my life. As I take personal stock and consider “retirement,” I
know that I will sorely miss it all. I see nothing but a bright future for
the program because of the people—like those already mentioned—
who are willing to put in the time, energy, and work, so that this
collaboration only grows. The future looks auspicious. Imagine—just
imagine…
-Randy Ekstrom

Starting with the instructors, who so graciously donate their time and
talent, I would like to personally thank two very special groups of
people.

I once wrote a story about the Grinnell Prison Program, describing


the volunteers in the following way:
With argyle grieves,
sweater-mitten gauntlets,
and floral-pattern sleeves,
tonight! the Knights of Allodium ride.
To me, knights have always been the quintessential heroes. I used the
word allodium because it means “freedom land.” Through your noble
and compassionate act of teaching, you become our heroes, deliv-
ering a piece of freedom to a place where such ethereal things are
scare. I wish to thank the Grinnellians for being all that and a bag of
baked, organic, low-fat chips (in a recycled container, of course).
And now for the prisoners...
Magic exists outside of prison; electric and glorious. Transitioning
from a world of freedom to one of ersatz monotony can be spiritual-
ly debilitating, transforming a human being into a lifeless automaton.
The weight of confinement adds to the gravity of loss, eventually
squeezing creativity from the suffering soul, and a razor-wire fence
becomes a sieve liberating juice from the fruit. It is then the convict
takes a horrible experience and describes it with eloquent prose,
proving that there are few things as tragically beautiful as ugly. This
state of osmosis results in a new sense of belief in self and reaffirms
a truth we always knew: Education is the grand resuscitator of the
comatose life.
I want to thank all of the prisoners in this book for taking ad-
vantage of the tools offered by Grinnell, and for crossing the thresh-
old into a new world of self-actualization and possibilities.
-Jason Darrah

From the Grinnell editor:


I first became involved with the Prison Program in fall of 2008,
teaching Creative Writing to a group of around twelve inmates. I
came to the program doubtful about my qualification to teach and
unsure what to expect. What I found surprised and inspired me: a
group of engaged, insightful students eager to learn and share, whose
discussions invigorated me and motivated me to keep coming back.
The Concrete Perspectives struck me as the perfect opportunity to
get more involved. Being the editor, I had the privilege of seeing a
great body of inmate work. The selection process was difficult to
say the least. There are some great pieces here, and some great ones
that I wasn’t able to include. However, reading the submissions and
hearing all these voices gave me great hope—that excellence defies
adversity; that freedom of the spirit endures.
-Susan Kikuchi
Words from the Prison Program
Coordinator:
Whenever I’m asked about my work in the prisons, I always say I’m
not interested in prisons so much as I am in teaching and learning
the liberal arts. And the vitality of the exchange between teacher and
student in prison is amazing—it gives life to everyone who partici-
pates. Since I first experienced that exchange, I’ve wanted to share it
with everyone.

This year, I have been blessed to officially spend my days facilitating


this learning experience. Thank you, everyone, for coming together to
form our unlikely learning community. You have given me a life full
of purpose and beauty.
-Emily Guenther

A special thanks to:

Grinnell co-editors: Liting Cong, Lara Glass, Emma Silverman

Those who made funding possible:


The Peace Studies Program
Grinnell Student Government Association
Fogfast and its student volunteers

Student artist: Noah DeLong


Words from the professors:

Every time I go out to Newton, when I see the prison on the hori-
zon, low, grey and surrounded by bales of treacherous wire, I think:
I don’t want to go in there. But once in the classroom, when the
guys settle in, and we start working through a text—the intensity of
their motivation, the profundity of their reflection—restores me to
my true vocation. Teaching at Newton enables me to be a dean at
Grinnell. I’ve said that to the guys. And then, when class ends, and
we leave the prison, I feel like singing all the way home.
-Kathleen Skerrett, Religious Studies

I thoroughly enjoyed my one experience lecturing at the prison in


Newton. The students were incredibly engaged in what I was doing
and with this engagement came the kind of classroom experience I
enjoy most: when student questions take the discussion a completely
different way than I might have intended or expected. We went from
a problem in wildlife ecology (estimating a population size through
a method involving sampling) to issues of opinion polling and the
presidential election that had taken place two days prior to my visit.
I was surprised with how plugged into the wider world the students
were and how intuitive and insightful their questions were about the
interplay between statistical issues and the world problems the statis-
tics is helping to solve. I have found teaching statistics more fun than
teaching mathematics because of this strong worldly component and
the group at Newton engaged in this aspect of my discipline as well
as any of my classes here at the college.
-Tom Moore, Mathematics and Statistics
I am teaching History 101, Basic Issues in European History at the
prison this spring. This class is one of the most exciting that I have
taught in over forty years as a college faculty member. We never get
through the planned material because there are so many questions
and so much lively discussion. The students are engaged, bright and
competent. I’m very glad that I was asked to teach this course for a
group of committed and talented students.
-George Drake, History

The men who heard my presentation on the Amana Colonies were


as attentive and engaged as any audience I’ve had. They proved it
by asking probing and TOUGH questions. I wish we’d had another
hour to continue the conversation.
-Jonathan Andelson, Anthropology

For me it was a wonderful, exhilarating experience, that shattered my


stereotypical expectations. The men were enthusiastic and came to
class fully prepared and eager to explore the literary texts at hand.
Their serious engagement with the texts and their insightful questions
really inspired my own thinking about the readings. I look forward to
another such lively interaction with these intelligent and intellectually
curious men.
-Sig Barber, German

One of the things I most enjoyed about teaching at Newton was the
diversity of life experiences the men bring to the material. Having
a range of students, from young adults to older men with families,
for example, enlarges discussions in directions that don’t develop in
classes at Grinnell. It was challenging to respond to all the perspec-
tives the men brought, but it was also loads of fun.
-Jean Ketter, Education
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Lewis Ayala The Hunt 1

Kenneth Bolen Brother Raven 3

Randy Ekstrom Breathe 5

Jason Darrah Rustoleum 7

Rodney Lampman Away Too Long 8

Justin DeMoss The Battle 9

Jayme Powell Peacefully Resting 10

Stephen Miller Friendship is Forever 11

Randy Ekstrom Prison Nights 12

Jayme Powell Letting Go 14

Robert Matheson How Fleeting Life 15

Erik Stannard Where We Are 16

James Shadden Prayer 17

Jayme Powell Excluded as a 18


Forgotten Thought
Rodney Lampman The Night my 19
Freedom Died
Kenneth Bolen The Astral Planes 20

Takowa Talley The Air Blows 21

Stephen Miller Sunshine 22


James Shadden My Prison 23

James Arbogast The Strongest 24

Rodney Lampan Early Riser 26

James Shadden Who am I? 27

Erik Stannard Burning Love 28

Stephen Miller Awake 29

Kenneth Bolen America 30

Shawn P. Shelton Watching fish float in 31


a bowl
Jason Darrah Bizzaloons 32

Kevin Bruegger I Don’t Know You 33

Takowa Talley The Placebo Effect 34

Randy Ekstrom A Concrete Perspec- 35


tive
37
Chris Levy Alliyonna

Robert Matheson Under the Tee-Kee 38


Lamps
Tim Petersen An Atlanta Skyline 40

Takowa Talley Political Innuendos 44

Burke Frink House or Mouse 45

Jason Darrah Villanelly Kelly Sings 49


the Blues
The Hunt
Lewis Ayala

Rising hours before dawn


Preparing our weapons and packs
With the necessary tools and scent-
Blockers for the upcoming hunt.
These last few days
We’ve spotted a couple decent bucks.

After all, that’s what this is all about, bucks.


Getting up and ready before dawn
Glassing for sign in tree lines, cornfields for the last few days.
Carrying this heavy pack,
Finding the best spot to set up my stand to hunt.
Checking the wind so they don’t catch my scent.

The trick is staying down wind so they don’t catch your scent.
There’s nothing I love better than ambushing a buck.
The tracking, stalking, then finally killing them. AHH, the thrill of
the hunt.
I’ll try this spot for my stand, gotta get set up before dawn
Finally, shed this heavy pack
This is a perfect way to spend my days.

I’ve waited and prepared all year for the return of these days
When the does begin to release their scent.
So we ready our weapons and prepare our packs
We devote all our time towards the bucks
They’re the reason we’re in our stands before dawn.
It’s rutt season, time for another hunt.

I’ve been practicing and preparing all year for this hunt
I’ve got this spot picked out and have been watching it for days.
I’m finally settled in my stand with plenty of time before dawn.
There’s no wind, so no worries about them catching my scent.
1
I’ve seen four does and only a couple bucks
Hope I haven’t wasted all this time carrying this heavy pack.

Even if I don’t get a monster, it’s still worth toting this pack
This long. After all it’s all part of the hunt.
Over there’s two does and behind them are those same two bucks.
I bet that ones’s the one I’ve been tracking for days,
Looks like he’s hot on their scent.
If he turns a little it’ll be worth sitting here since before dawn.

Well, hunting and tracking for days,


Getting up before dawn, putting everything in our packs,
Don’t mean shit if the buck catches my scent.

2
Brother Raven
Kenneth Bolen

Black-leather dove of passion


Flying high in azure skies,
Your dark radiance captures my
Attention, soaring ever so free,
Painting the skies as your shadow scrapes the
Earth; I seek and summon your thoughts.

Stranded in a restless nation, battered, lonesome, stale thoughts;


It’s only you who seizes my mind’s eye and propels my passion
For writing. Your black eyes of chance always punctuating the
Day in effortless perfection as you soar the skies
At phantom speeds. Brother raven, free
Me, release me from my

Mental prison, release me from my


Frail and crumpled host of thoughts.
Take me upon your wing to the land of freedom,
Grand heights; where the wind is heavily breathing passion
Which seeps into my skull. Let’s climb through the skies
Away from this labyrinth of mediocrity and the
Lost souls of society, where the
Air is noisy. Brother raven you are my
Advocate and sympathizer, let’s soar the skies
And never leave a cloud unkissed. Our thoughts
Will transcend, saturating the horizon with passionate
Sunsets; while nature enhances her beauty freely

To the poet within me. Brother raven set me free


To roam in your euphoric forest and roost in the
Tallest oak tree. Bird of prey, beauty and passion
Unearth my art, pluck strings of verse from my
Mossy brain and weave our thoughts
Into a nest of poems with a serene view of the skies.
3
My art contains no boundaries, just like the skies.
Brother raven, It’s you who unlocks my chained consciousness and
frees
My captive soul; allowing ink to spill my internal thoughts
Onto woodland pulp. I want to share with the
World my thoughts, my vast wisdom, my
Art of verse and my infinite passion.

Oh passion winged minister of my thoughts,


Renew my weary mind and set me free;
Free to the skies…

4
Breathe
Randy Ekstrom

I don’t like the penitential pen


With its sardonic strokes
Flogging me in black and blue.
The sound of a soul tearing,
Like old flesh,
Papery and coarse,
Is a reminder
That life and death can be…
One.
I breathe the same breath
As my brothers and sisters
Who sidle by, avoiding my eyes
For fear of seeing themselves
In my shadowed gaze.

I stare
Eyes dull with time
As some look for redemption, and
Some look for serenity, and
Others look for love,
All in the wrong place.
Tucked neatly beneath their folded arms
God is carried casually,
Like so much luggage,
While the Buddha still sits on his ass…
Silent.
I stare calmly at the truth—
I am worse.
I am less.
I am dead.

It’s easy to turn a blind eye


To a mirror that peers back at you
5
Every morning
Every evening
Every time.
The burning of a sullen eye,
The asthmatic whisper hope,
The words are… tough to find.
Little changes in the days
And days
And days
And years.
It’s the same old bullshit, just a different day—
There’s never enough toilet paper.
I wanted to say how life is…
Better,
How hope should never…
Die,
How important it is to…
Rise.
Like so much flotsam.
I wanted to write
Telling,
Explaining
Giving…
But I can’t
Lying in this coffin
Beneath the heavy lid,
Surrounded by expensive trim—

It’s hard enough to breath.

6
RUSTOLEUM
Jason Darrah

Submerged in time, we float suspended,

casting golden hues upon the firmament.


Beggars beg, takers take, translucent smiles

betray opaque, cerulean sins. Hot


greed cuts deep between the ribs, splashing
canvas crimson red. Lovers torn asunder,

a luscious blush for burning umber.


Her face, divinely sad, is held captive by
the arcing light of blue electric boil.

A single platinum tear runs quicksilver


smooth, cutting through mascara mauve.

We paint the face of God with light of prayers.

7
Away Too Long
Rodney Lampman

My sweet and loving wife


Her pictures that I kiss
The memories that we shared
The good times that I miss
Missing the way she laughs
Missing the way she smiles
Imagining her soft touch
Driving me mad all the while
Insane, Depressed, Alone, Afraid
This is my life of late
Without the love that made me strong
My friend my always my soul mate
Here I am longing for you
Loving every single day and night
Being married to my amazing wife
Is my one and only true Delight

8
Justin DeMoss
THE BATTLE

In the dark where shadows dwell


I sit alone inside my cell
Looking for a light to beam
To keep away Satan’s team

A light that shines upon my heart


To keep my soul pure from the start
For in a battle ground I reside
Where good and evil make me chose a side

For in the dark where tricks are played


Satan lurks and plans to stay
To corrupt my spirit for my soul
And make my heart dark as coal

But in the light angels sing


For the Lord is there the one true King
To guide my path and carry me
And keep my body worry free

So when the battle starts again


I’ll always know where to begin
By searching deep down in my soul
I know the light’s my one true goal

9
Peacefully Resting
Jayme Powell

Daniel Scott Powell


Troubled soul, striving to do everything right,
Refusing the quick and easy, enduring life’s valiant fight,
This Honorable Man, whom the meaning of moral fiber is based,
Lived with such purpose, while others just filled their space,
He pushed and shoved, and drove with his heart,
Till finally he lost it, his whole life torn apart,
He loved this world, kind to most everyone in it,
Had no choice in the end, just lived TRUE till his final minute,
This father of three, and brother to five,
Uncle to me, Danny’s spirit will always be alive!

10
Friendship is Forever
Stephen Miller

To me friendship is important as important can be


I truly value our relationship as friends I hope you can see
If you ever need help you can always count on me
The problems we have had no longer really matter
Our friendship is still strong even though our relationship was a tatter
I’ll do anything for you if you ever needed me to
Friendship is forever and should always stay true
Life would be much easier and with much less heartbreak
If friends were willing to choose the right steps not to take
One day I’ll be in Hawaii watching the ocean blue
So when your going through life and you ever need a friend
Word through a postcard or through the telephone is all you will ever
need to send.

11
Prison Nights
Randy Ekstrom

I fill my ears with music and reruns.


I paint my paper with stillborn sounds,
Bruised and bloodied by the throes of time.

Crimson screams merge with broken whimpers


As voices wither into nothingness.
Dead echoes. My head swells with whispering
Shadows that eternally haunt my dreams.

My life breathes out, a grey mist creeping


Stealthily through wire that cuts and scrapes.
The cold steel strangles me in its grip.

As iron smashes against concrete,


My fist is clenched against my temples.
My heart beats in rhythmic agony,
Waiting for the tempo to relinquish.

My words flow like blood from a ravaged


Wound, spitting and splashing against the wall,
Evaporating into quiet nothingness.

Music cannot drown out the cries from dank


Grottoes full of rue. There is no redemption
For the abominable. My mind cannot
Release the grip of its memories.

The smell of dung beaten into mosaic walls and


The curdled blood stained against forgotten lives,
Paralyze my nights with their anguished screams.

I listen to the throbbing sighs as they move


Through my evanescent presence, brushing
12
Against my ribcage and tearing open my heart.
The voices of the past claw up my spine,

Choking me awake every night. I hear


Them all. They deafen me into silence,
As they beg for me to listen.

13
Letting Go
Jayme Powell

is
trusting someone to catch you,
after you’ve held on for dear life,
over the edge of a cliff,
while fear is gripping you,
harder than you can grasp,
just freefalling backwards out of control,
opening up to a person you don’t even know,
hoping someone cares as much as you do,
losing yourself at the hands of another,
becoming something you fear,
changing your entire being,
forgiving a lover after an affair,
releasing your resentments,
admitting your fears and failures,
revealing your insecurities,
accepting a fate that has been decided by someone else,
its easy really,
cause all these feelings,
fears, hates, regrets, pains, loves,
tangible things we hold on to cause they have meaning,
but when you let go,
you are free from your own prison,
living in a realm of openness without issues,
take a moment to look at your palm,
it’s that easy yet completely unbearable,
opening your hand,
can you do it,
let go?

14
How Fleeting Life
Robert Matheson

How fleeting life


from cradle to grave—
when we live each day
like shadows in the mist
We disappear with
the morning light
Like dew at night
we leave our mark
upon the grass—
and with the light we pass
unto another day

We are shadows
from the corner of an eye—
here then gone,
we pass on by
Our lives are fragile
as butterfly wings,
and soft as a breeze
on a summer day
We’re here for a moment,
then pass a way
We are footprints
in the sands of time
We make no reason—no rhyme!
But if we stop to reason why
life will wave and pass us by!

15
Where We Are
Erik Stannard

Here I am, there she is, this is where we are.


I hold her hand, gaze at her face, But it’s not the same.
Here I am, there she is, now we are apart.
The hand is a memory—the face in a picture frame.

Here I am, there she is, this is where we are.


I used to feel her warm caress, gently touch her skin.
Here I am, there she is, now we are apart.
Without her touch, is such distress—this is hell I’m in.

Here I am, there she is, this is where we are.


I hear her voice say my name, but that was way back then.
Here I am, there she is, now we are apart.
Now I pray to ever hear—her say my name again.

Here I am, there she is, this is where we are.


I wonder, will love be the same, as it was before?
Here I am, there she is, now we are apart.
Love the way it used to be—there’s nothing I want more!

16
Prayer
James Shadden
I can be assured there is a God,
I make my requests known to him in prayer.
A prayer is but a simple conversation
telling him all my needs.
My God reveals himself to me in meditation.
I have this assurance through my faith.

To any who want a strong spiritual faith,


all you have to do is believe in God.
Take some time alone and meditate,
preparing your heart for prayer,
bringing to God all your needs.
Don’t be overwhelmed, it’s just a conversation.

When two friends come together and conversate,


sharing their hopes and dreams in faith,
your friend begins to know your needs.
Let this intimate friend become God.
All you have to do is come before Him in prayer,
take some time to reflect and meditate.

You don’t have to be the Pope or a saint to meditate,


our Lord Jesus is more than ready to conversate.
One can be in any position when they pray,
all you need is a mustard seed of faith.
For He is an all knowing and powerful God.
Relying on Him will never leave you in need.

Anything you feel that is needed,


search your heart and soul to meditate,
bringing everything forth to God.
He is waiting to hear your conversation.
All that is required is belief and faith,
and He will answer your prayers.
17
Excluded as A Forgotten Thought
Jayme Powell

Missing your loved ones, while they feel nothing in return,


so cold is abandonment, numbing the fiery burn,
Trying to forget, the things that matter most,
while life is still going, but you are just a ghost,
A memory or thought, if you are even that,
a piece of past in the present, useless as a broken bat,
Living in motion, when time has come to a halt,
others go on, leave you with nothing but fault,
You question your sanity, while answering yourself,
this journey of reason, relentless in itself,
Finding peace inside, only comes from release,
freedom is attainable, once the pain begins to cease.

18
The Night My Freedom Died
Rodney Lampman

A dark Thursday night


Knocking at the back door
The authoritative voice demanding me out
Panic in my eyes
Fear in my soul
Children crying in mother’s arms
The burden of truth
My heavy shoulders
Cold steel upon my wrist
Soft caress of my wife’s lips
Eager looks of passion and hope
A single salty tear
Feelings of regret
The night my freedom died

19
THE ASTRAL PLANES
Kenneth Bolen

—Slowly —Call forth


Breathe in, breathe out The feathered creatures
—counting breaths. From the Laurel Tree.
Breathe in, breathe out; —Danu
—close your eyes, —Mother Moon,
—empty your mind. Mother of the gods,
—breathe, Allow her cool warmth
Let yourself go, —to embrace you;
Feel the vibrations as —immerse yourself in
You separate from your The Chagall Blue night.
Physical self… —Soar!
—breathe, Over distant lands, ancient cities;
Breathe deeply; Through
See the colorful lights Past, present and future lives.
On the astral plane’s There are no limits…
Horizon.
Pay no mind to your physical self.
Let the vibrations sift you
Towards the lights.
Don’t be scared!
You won’t be lost,
—Go!
By the gray cord of
Infinity,
To your body you are
Tethered.
You must come back
The way you went in.
—Mabon,
God of music, poetry and beauty,
—anoint
The night with your
Strings and bellows,
20
The air blows
Takowa Talley

Breezing, it has a voice. To all life forms as it blows, humanity listens


involuntarily. Bowing to every breezy coaxing every whim this is en-
tity desire. Wind is its name.
The force of its grace caress your body on a windy day send-
ing chills up your spine causing your soul to weep softly. Inflicting
pain in such a way that only a foggy mist seeps out your mouth to
compliment its force.
Air escapes no one. So humanity knows it well for reason
our anatomy craves. The force that drives within the atmosphere by
means of its own metamorphosis.
A deity one should worship one should worship considering
its cunning ways. it sleeps with your wives& husbands yet cannot be
harmed nor is it condemned, simple because its ignored by all but I.
As it roams this planet causing havoc I sit in this tranquil
library admiring its invisibility knowing it takes my life from me every
day and I will live on to catch the ear of that predecessor it choose
to have write once again of its mundane methods, or for some…un-
orthodox reason. So I the doctor give you this pill of knowledge yet
you feel invincible when talking to the opposite sex. Thinking back
on a time when my hands got so sweet

21
Sunshine
Stephen Miller

Spangled skies and a moon lit night


wishing I was next to you holding you so tight

Under these skies I never want the time to end


lets stay here until the sunshine becomes our friend

Now at this very moment in time


your beauty to me is as soft as a wind blown chime

Sometimes I sit and picture you in my mind


and then I know you really are my sunshine

How I wish I was there with you


thank god that I know our love is so true

I cant believe whoever invented the cloud


to be able to call you my woman makes me so proud

Not only do you brighten my day


i would do anything for you as long as you stay

Everlasting like the sweetest tasting wine


I am so ecstatic that you are my true sunshine!!!

22
James Shadden
My Prison

Not those made of bars and stone,


The one created by flesh and blood.

Locking all these doors one by one


So I can retreat to be safe and alone,

If I leave just one door ajar


I invite one more to add another scar.

As the keys of mistrust and fear appear,


I begin to seal each lock with yet another tear.

Making sure, the doors are sealed shut,


Therefore, the guard of shame cannot strut.

If anyone does try breaking in,


The alarms begin to sound within.

I stand on the defense ready and alert,


I have to guard myself from anymore hurt.

I will look thru these bars to see and question,


Does anyone look trusting?

Finding the key ring with love and trust,


To open any of these doors is a must.

When I look in the mirror at myself the warden,


Asking myself, will I ever feel again?
Only to know I must grant myself a Pardon.

23
The Strongest
James Arbogast

My grandmother was a very loving and caring person. She


had the type of personality—if you met her you couldn’t help but
like her. She wasn’t very big, around 5’2’’, never over 100 lbs. The
mother of three: two boys, one girl; the sister of twelve; grand-
mother of ten; great-grandmother of fourteen. A very strong and
determined woman; when she owned a bar not a patron got out of
lines. She wouldn’t take a second thought about throwing you out,
and didn’t need any help at it, taking anyone that got out of line by
the ear and taking them outside like they were her own child. Having
seen this a couple of times as a child not believing what I saw, these
big farmers and hired hands being led outside by my grandmother.
They didn’t fight back…they just apologized and begged her to let
them stay. She would tell them all the same thing, “Go home and
cool off,” and they were welcome to come back tomorrow. And if a
fight broke out, which didn’t happen often, she would slam a baseball
bat on the bar all would go quiet. She would tell them to stop it or
take it outside.
Watching this was quite a sight, almost, almost like a lion
trainer making those lions do all of those tricks and expecting the big
beast to tear them up, but they never do. She could handle herself. I
always knew she was tough. We all found out just how tough she re-
ally was one spring afternoon in 1983.
She was coming back home after taking lunch out to my
grandfather and my dad. My grandparents owned an ag-lime and
gravel trucking business. She came up over a blind hill; anyone who
has traveled Iowa’s gravel roads knows what I mean. At the bottom
of the hill was a creek with a small bridge. A couple of teenagers joy
riding in their dad’s car while skipping school got a flat and parked
right in the middle of the bridge. My grandmother, trying to stop
from hitting the kids, hit the brakes and swerved to miss them. The
front tire on the truck blew out, the truck started to flip. The police
that investigated the scene said that the tools and the 100 gallon fuel
tank helped the truck to flip. At some point she was thrown out of
24
the windshield and the truck rolled over her. The police also said that
the fuel tank is what probably saved her from being crushed. She was
hurt bad enough, both collar bones, two vertebrae in her neck, three
vertebrae in her back, and her pelvis broke. She was cut real bad,
almost scalped. She made a full recovery.
I thought nothing could stop my grandmother. After losing
my own mother she was there for me. If I ever needed anything or
just needed to talk she was there. The hardest thing I ever had to do
was watch her slowly die from emphysema. She fought harder than
anyone ever could. It took over ten years for it to take her life. She
was the strongest person I have ever known.

25
EARLY RISER
Rodney Lampman
(for his wife!)

Warm, Safe, Content, Unconscious


Lying next to my everything
Pushing snooze once, twice, three times
The heat and friction from our rubbing feet
My right arm draped over her
Feeling the swell of her breast
Awe that sweet musty smell
The sleep on us is tantalizingly erotic
The soft good morning moans
That sexy morning voice
Honey it’s time to wake up
Every fiber not wanting to move
Sitting up in our warm bed
My hand patting her behind
The walk around the bed
A long journey at this hour
That sweet soft first kiss
Good morning sweet heart
The start of another great day

26
Who am I?
James Shadden

An iron vault leads to my lost soul;


I only opened the door just a crack answering the strange call,

There was a magnetic force pulling me inside this lonely place;


Inside I see open doors, some open wide others barely a trace,

No matter the fear, every door I must embrace;


To pass even one door allows my demons to control this torturous
place,

There are many black memories that worked thru in time can be
erased;
I must build endurance and continue at a very slow and steady pace,

One day I will look in the mirror at my face;


No longer in disgrace.

27
Burning Love
Erik Stannard

Love, like a fire, burns with desire


One, on the skin—
The other—deep within!

Starting with warmth, a beautiful glow


The powers they hold—
Continue to grow!

Each does great damage, in its own unique way


But wherever the burn—
The pain—will always stay!

Each will leave scars, on different parts of the whole


One, on the body—
The other—ON THE SOUL!

28
Awake
Stephen Miller

Despair and hate have surrounded me, the cell bars have closed
I am locked inside this body of pain and torn flesh
As to when freedom will come my way I wait in anguish
I am all alone on this deserted island
I will soon be nothing more than to falter
I have gotten myself into this black abyss deep water or black skies
Scratching, clawing, fighting, digging, shortness of breath
I can’t see a thing because of all the pressures
All of these things that I truly do hate
Hopefully they all go away when I awake

29
America
Kenneth Bolen

How beautiful art thou?


She used to be a simple place,
Your future is here and now,
It all seems to be a race,
Everything’s been a mess,
Disheveled is her dress,
I’m amazed you can still even function,
Controlled by crooked politics,
It’s all about the money,
And that Bush, he’s a real prick.
Whatever happened to the land of milk and honey?

30
Watching fish float in a bowl
Shawn P. Shelton

As the world goes round.


Life, death, sacrifice, resurrection,
fills her mind.

Searching her soul, its immortality.


Is it mortally wounded?

Why? Why not?

Lust and illusions of love.

A woman cries, she whimpers in camaraderie.

A hanger…she thought was for hanging coats.

31
BIZZALLOONS
Jason Darrah

On violet vespers you floated true,


Bouquet of bees without a sting.
Where from came the bizzalloons?

Rotoscoping loony toons


From jelly beans attached to string.
On violet vespers you floated true.

Superimposing afternoons
With songs that children dare to sing.
Where from came the bizzalloons?

Your Technicolor neon blooms,


An entourage of escorting spring.
On violet vespers you floated true.

The downtown clowns shuffle their shoes,


A brilliant brace of brightened bling.
Where from came the bizzalloons?

And you, my father, the buffoon,


Where are they colors you promised me?
On violet vespers they floated through.
Where now are my bizzalloons?

32
I Don’t Know You
Kevin Bruegger

I know that you are out there somewhere. I don’t know who
you are or what you look like…I don’t know that sound of your
voice or the feeling of your skin on my fingertips. I don’t what color
your eyes are and I don’t know the color of your hair. I don’t know
the sound of your voice or the sound of your breath as you sleep
peacefully next to me…I don’t know where you live and I don’t know
your name…
What I do know is that you are out there somewhere…You
are lonely, and you always feel like something is missing, but you
haven’t lost anything…You have been in the arms of a few other
than me but it still doesn’t feel right…you have even been in a few
relationships but they have turned out to be the complete opposite
of what you are looking for in love.
So you continue searching, looking for that passion and car-
ing and love…That will make you eternally happy and content for the
rest of your life…you will continue searching until at last you find me
and I find you…
Until then I don’t know you.

33
Placebo effect
Takowa Talley

“There are no facts only interpretations” quoted Nietzsche,


so I speak only of my theory. The universe is made up of people of
the same, excluding the eccentric individuals such as myself. America
has a standard for the morals and values of its people. Its all buf-
foonery in my opinion simply because I see no reason why standards
should be put on a nation, granted chaos a quiet moment fop eave,
never the less are the political figures, hence stooping to a level be-
neath the germs that create disease.
The placebo effect is the core of Americas image, it consist
of the personality’s that are created by experience of social life in
America.
Placebo has that same affect as the pill which makes you
think everything’s ok once you take it. The placebos analogy has is
not just similar but synonymous to the vial Words which politicians
inject into the minds of the youthful generation.

Intelligence alone is based on curiosity. The sad part about


that dilemma is that our society trains its people to just trust that the
people whom govern our country, our righteous men because there
record has no felony or they deceive you into thinking they have the
perfect family life. Wondering one might, as to why that last area was
covered in my philosophical thought. Its potency bares jewels
That are priceless, critically thinking would justify this non hyperbolic
statement. Said will lynch. It will go on for a thousand years. The
placebo effect last for many year

34
A Concrete Perspective
Randy Ekstrom

Peering through the window, I scan the horizon to the west, tak-
ing in as much of the view as the narrow concrete slot in the wall
permits. Mounds of unkempt snow have fairly dwindled down into
the soft earth, their ghosts resting in frosty puddles. A chilly breeze
ripples across the field, disturbing the tranquility, forcing steel fences
to quiver in rigid tremors. The sun pours itself onto the scene, its
radiance improvising warmth onto the idle grey tables that patiently
wait for dominoes and oft-repeated tales. A tired concrete boulevard
lies in the dull brown grass, stained with years of grit and plodding
footsteps as it circles the prison yard. An assortment of souls wander
aimlessly, adorned in grey and blue, like remnants of the Civil War,
staring with hardened eyes at a world that lies within sharp lines of
demarcation.
Far off, past the razor’s edge of the fence, a small herd of
cattle stands firmly in the breeze, their heads nuzzling the dark green
that erupts from clumps of faded grass. Near them, the blackened
heads of Canadian geese rise like stealthy periscopes searching the
horizon for enemy ships. A squadron of their brothers drifts gently
in from the north, dropping silently from buoyant clouds. Barren
trees stand bravely with their backs bowed by winter winds. Like Chi-
nese characters, they stiffly pose outstretched inky limbs, their green
buds invisible beneath unpolished armor.
Muffled shouts from across the yard filter through the thick
glass of the window as comrades call to one another.
“Meet me in the weight yard!”
“I can’t man—I gotta call my ol’ lady.”
“I got class.”
In the distance, near a desolate building, two cats—one black
and white, the other mottled brown, look up, their eyes searching.
They leap to their feet, mewing softly, as they jog cautiously toward a
bit of meatloaf carefully tossed in their direction.
Beyond the glittering fence, beyond the geese, past the
trees—the western horizon beckons to me, a silent voice that fills my
35
heart. I strain to see farther. I hear voices from home: my dad asking
me to hand him a crescent wrench; my mom scolding me for eating
the cookies before they’ve cooled down; my brothers comparing the
Vikings and the 49ers; my sisters listening to two generations of mu-
sic, giggling. I see my son, his tiny hand clinging to mine for the last
time, his blue eyes not understanding.
The edge of the world calls to me, perilously distant.

36
ALLIYONNA
THE ONE WHO’S LEFT TO HOLD MY DREAMS
Chris Levy

I am troubled by this pain I’ve caused this gift I was given. She is
only ten months old and just above two feet tall she has five little
teeth and a laugh that drops tears from my eyes. She is my little girl.
It’s been almost two weeks since I held her last. Her name is Al-
liyonna Verlea Ruth Levy. She is my world my life. I held her when
she was born, the first one to hold her. I see the air fill her lungs and
the color come to her skin as I cut the cord of love that attached
her to her mother. Now she’s growing like a rose. Pretty soon she
will be a young lady and I will have to let her go. IT WILL BE THE
HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE. The first time I went away
from her it took over a month to see her, then a month for my next
visit. Now she comes almost every two weeks to rain havoc on my
heart. She brings tears of joy to my eyes every time I see that she has
learned something new like when she said dada or hi or took her first
steps. I just miss my little angel in and in one hundred and sixty seven
days I will be home and this time I will stay.

37
Under the Tee-Kee Lamps
Robert Matheson

Scene: Stars stare down from a black and velvet sky, and a cold white
orb hangs silent above an old oak tree. Beneath its bare and crooked
boughs sit two people on an old wood and cast-iron deacon’s bench.
White clouds of condensed air hang about their heads in the still
December air. The only movement comes from the four tee-kee
lamps placed around the bench and a slight breeze. Each lamp flick-
ers and gives off an eerie glow of false warmth. Yet, they stand like
fierce sentinels against the night. The two people on the bench are
huddled together. But to anyone watching, it is obvious that the cold
is not the only reason for their closeness. The larger of the two has
his arm pressed gently around the shoulders of a young girl. Her long
chestnut hair hangs across his arm and disappears into the shadows
beneath the bench. Both of them are staring past the flames of the
tee-kee lamps and into the darkness beyond. With only a turn of her
head she looks up at him and says:

Girl: It sure is a beautiful night.


Man: Yes it is. A bit cold though. The tee-kee lamps don’t seem to
give off as much warmth as they used to.
Girl: Times change. But the night is just as clear and the stars are still
as bright…
Man: Still as bright as what, honey?
Girl: The last time we sat under the tee-kee lamps.
(Shifting his body slightly, he turns his head toward her with a look
of sudden sadness in his eyes—but he remains silent.)
Man: Funny, I never thought of it that way. (Pause) What is it telling
you, honey?
Girl: It’s reminding me that life is fleeting. And it is reminding me to
cherish moments like these.
(Both the man and the girl sit in silence for several minutes watching
the flames of the lamps as they flicker and dance in the cold night
breeze.)
Girl: Last night I had a dream. In my dream I was sitting alone again
38
under the tee-kee lamps. I dreamt that you had gone to prison again.
It was cold—much colder than tonight, and I had no one to keep me
warm.
(A warm tear slips silently down his cheek and onto her shoulder un-
noticed.)
Man: It’s just a dream—forget it.
Girl: Do dreams come true?
Man: Only if you let them.
Girl: I don’t want to sit alone again under the tee-kee lamps! (She says
with pleading in her eyes). Promise me I won’t ever have to again!
(With tears in both his eyes now, he pulls her closer and says:)
Man: Honey, I promise you’ll never have to sit under the tee-kee
lamps alone again.
(Pause)
Girl: Can we sit under the lamps tomorrow night?
Man: Yes honey—and every night after that for the rest of our lives
if you want!
Girl: It really is a beautiful night, isn’t it, Dad?
(Pulling her closer, he hugs her tight. They both sit quietly under
the gentle warmth of the tee-kee lamps and stare into the star-filled
eternal night.)

39
An Atlanta Skyline
Tim Petersen
The unruly dogs continued to shout ferocious warnings to
one another yard to yard, all directions up and down the alley for
what seemed like miles and hours. In the blackness of the night, I
slipped through the gate and made my way across the vacant back-
yard to the rear of the house where I began to scale the wall to reach
the second story balcony.
It is the same scenario each time I sneak to this healing com-
fort zone of mine. I have several of these portals across the country,
including Kauai and Alaska, but sneaking into this one calls for added
caution and peaked awareness. While I listen to the dogs barking and
growling from their own back yards I can’t help but wonder whether
or not the dogs are reporting that the intruder is light-skinned as
well as one of peculiar scent. I am in the heart of Atlanta’s Historical
District, which is the heart of Atlanta. It is nearly three o’clock in the
morning and there is a very good chance that I am the only human
of non-African American descent for many, many miles around.
You’d think that I could not afford to be found here, alone, in the
middle of the night, yet I walk without concern of being discovered.
Tonight, throughout this endeavor I am harmony, in balance and
walking in silence and beauty, as they say. I am one-hundred per-
cent native, I am a member of the only existing race there is in this
universe, the human race. Just like the name “uni-verse” implies…
uni-verse, one song. I come here often. I come here humbled. I come
here in supplication with a yearning heart and a need to connect with
the alternate, ethereal world of loving kindness and brotherhood. In
many places across the country I have located these comfort zones
where I seek the refuse of silence. I carry stones to construct per-
sonal medicine wheels where my lamenting and seeking visions take
place, safely in the protection of my guardian relatives. I am not able
to build a medicine wheel here, however, I do perform the sym-
bolic motions of the ritual to honor and invite all my relations, just
the same. From the first time I came to this location I knew it was
home to me, I felt protection in the reception from all my relations
who come before and after me. I know that I have always been here,
40
living, loving, learning leaving, and returning to the familiar, again.
Away, for a while, until another woman brings my spirit from the sur-
face of the ocean’s waters and bores me once again into a new body,
a new life. Once more, I am the eternal among the mortal, the infinite
mingling in the finite.
I crawl up onto the roof of the back porch to rest on the bal-
cony where I sit silently in reverence and in complete expectation of
visiting knowledge, beseeching the wisdom that has been kept safely
in the bosom of the ancients and elders who have long passed. Those
who anxiously await for the younger ones to appear, humbly asking
for the guidance and wisdom which can only come from the hearts
and safekeeping of these respected ones that have gone ahead.
I smell the bar-b-que and automobiles while I sit in the dark
humid summer heat of the Atlanta dawn. These smells are rolling
and blending with the Magnolia, Cherry and Persimmon, and Lilac
trees. The traveling aromas blend and bond, from the familiar to the
unknown, along with all of my senses they fade from today, to the
past. Sounds, sights, and smells of this night suddenly transfer into
another world where my heart is waiting for the communion with the
company of the elders I am seeking. Sensory perception becomes
lucid, taking on a new life related to a time in, and from, memories
past. Back and forth my heart and mind are traveling. Listening,
learning, and loving these voices of the past which are as real and fa-
miliar as my own Mother’s lullaby, as warm and assuring as her breast.
I am being loved, cherished and taught by friends and family whom I
have no conscious memory of ever knowing.
The dogs that sounded the alarms and threatened the intrud-
er only hours ago now know me, it seems they know and recognize
this person I am more than I know who I am, sitting here in wonder
and elation.
I sit and meditate for hours, looking off the porch of this his-
toric home, feeling like I belong here. I feel acceptance and love while
I sit here pleading to know and understand what that little boy seen
in the Atlanta skyline as he sat here while growing up. I wish to know
what inspired him as a twelve year old young man as he sat here with
his legs dangling over the edge like me. I question if his Grandfather
was aware of all the love, strength, and determination that stirred
41
in his little boy’s soul. I question if his Grandfather ever suspected
his little boy carried the dreams and visions of a prophet, one who
would one day help transform the hearts of the people in this world.
I am told, yes, his Grandfather, a great preacher in his own right,
recognized the depth of Truth, Strength, and Love in the eyes of his
little boy.
Was it this beautiful skyline that convinced this young man
that he would do it? Where did his confidence to attempt such a
change come from? That is why I come today. I come to surrender
my heart to this understanding of love and truth.
When the morning breeze begins to kick up with its coolness
and I get ready to retreat back to the reality of my mortal life I can’t
help but feel the presence of Martin Luther King, Jr. The love and
understanding that has been passed down to him through his Grand-
father and the others who mentored that sacred life is given to me for
sharing, also.
Some mornings I smoke a little personal blend of tobacco on
this porch, but mostly I am much too overwhelmed by the mystery
and sadness of it all. Every time I leave this place of communion I
am briefly saddened, I don’t want it to end. I have doubts that I have
been given what I came in search of and I want to remain until I hear
Martin clearly speak to the depths of my being. It’s all selfish doubts
and melancholy. Once I get to my vehicle I know that I have again
been blessed. From the presence of inner peace and contentment
I know I have made the connection. With a rejuvenated spirit I am
walking with Martin’s determination and it is time to go, the birds are
singing loudly and with joy.
These are life changing moments for me. So subtle, yet so
strong are the revelations in my life. It may be days, months, or even
seasons before an incident reveals a new heart in me. I may be in
discussion or thought concerning life and/or creation and our rela-
tionship with its obligation to it, or to each other, when I am struck
by a quiet or revolting epiphany. For a moment, I do not know or
remember when I had begun to think this way, but it seems natural
and clear to me now, then another familiar sensation overcomes me
and I am reminded of mornings on Martin Luther King’s balcony,
or words he spoke in a public address and it is clear to me where this
42
ancient wisdom living in my newly invigorated heart has come from
and I remember a piece of creation’s blessing, one splendid little mo-
ment that unfolded for my eyes only, like the morning with the birds
singing to me with joyful declarations, and I know. I don’t know how,
but I believe I know. Until it is absolutely clear to me I’ll continue to
think it was in the view of the awesome Atlanta skyline. As long as I
walk this side of life I’ll continue to sneak up onto that balcony every
chance I get when I am in Atlanta. Such a memorable skyline!
Thank you, Martin.

43
Political Innuendos
Takowa Talley

I do not condone violence yet I do value its affects, moreover I


respect Avakian but I admire Castro for his demeanor of action, and
nothing more. Hate those demands I don’t, admire there ruthless in-
tellect, inevitable. Understand you cant hate the nature of these pest
its all they know. Crude is a gentle word for the smiles they issue on
press release basking with gleeful delight at the innuendos entwined
in the statements they wrote. As for us a community this is intoler-
able. If political actives emulate the dictatorship of our government
we would be considered average in our own minds therefore we must
emulate tactics such as the queen of England. They say you need
credentials of higher learning to be successful, explain Shaka Zulu or
Winston Churchill better yet Hitler. To know history is to know thy
self. 74% of the worlds population only uses only uses only three to
five percent of there brain. my fellow brothers & sisters lets grab the
world by its axis and demonstrate a ten point one for the rector scale.

44
House or Mouse
Burke Frink

Characters:
Levi, 25, real estate agent
Jacob, 26, Levi’s business partner and best friend
Old lady/Lena
Scene: Levi and Jacob’s small realty office. There are two desks facing
each other—one against each wall—a filing cabinet next to Levi’s
desk (to the left of the audience) and water cooler next to Jacob’s.
The walls are plastered with pictures of houses and property for sale.
There is window upstage and we can see it is raining. As the scene
opens, we find Levi standing, staring out the window; Jacob is talking
on the telephone.)
Levi (to himself): God, I hate this weather. Hasn’t stopped raining in
three days.
Jacob (cheerfully): Well, Levi, old buddy, old friend of mine, we final-
ly managed to unload that three-story monstrosity over on Arclight.
(He rubs his hands gleefully.) And, for a hefty commission, I might
add. (He leans back and puts his feet on the desk.) Not a bad way to
start the day, eh?
Levi (absentmindedly): It’s been raining cats and dogs for three days
straight with no end in sight. God, I hate this weather. (Levi walks to
his desk, sits with a loud sigh and hangs his head. Jacob goes to Levi’s
desk and sits on the edge.)
Jacob: Why so glum, chum? You, of all people, oughta be on top of
the world. Just think, kiddo, in two days you’ll be marrying the girl of
your dreams. (He leans forward and claps Levi on the shoulder). And,
just think, with business going so well, you can take Lena to Japan for
your honeymoon.
Levi: That’s if there is a wedding.
Jacob: What do you mean, “if ”? Of course there’s going to be a wed-
ding. I’ve never seen two people as crazy about each other as the two
45
of you. So, why would you think you weren’t getting married?
Levi (in a choked voice): She’s gone, man. Nobody has seen her for
three days and I am really starting to get worried. The rehearsal din-
ner is tonight, and it’s like she’s vanished off the face of the earth.
(Pause. Deep breath.) Hell, her parents don’t even know where she is.
Jacob (encouragingly): Cheer up, man. I’m sure everything will work
itself out. (He goes back to his own desk.) Only advice I can give you
is try not to think about it, and stay focused on business. (He looks
up as the door opens.) Right now, we have a customer.
(Old woman enters. She is an odd mixture of wealth and bag lady.
Her hair and nails give the impression of a woman just coming from
a beauty salon. On the other hand, the floor-length coat and red
unbuttoned rubber boots she is wearing—as well as the patched,
over-sized canvas bag slung over her shoulder—makes her look like
she has been dumpster diving. Going to Levi’s desk, she sits down
and sets her bag on the floor.)
Old Woman: Excuse me, young man, I would like to buy a mouse.
Levi (Not sure he heard right): Come again, ma’am?
Old Woman: What do you mean, “come again”? I am not leaving. I
only just arrived.
Levi (clearing his throat nervously): Yes, ma’am. Sorry, ma’am.
Now…
Old Woman (interrupting): Young man, stop calling me your mother.
I am not your mom.
Levi (taking a deep, calming breath): What may I do for you?
Old Woman: I would like to buy a mouse.
(Jacob gets up and walks over to join the conversation. He sits on
the edge of Levi’s desk, leaning forward so the Old Woman can hear
him.)
Jacob: I’m sorry, but we don’t sell mice.
Old Woman: Why, thank you, dear. (She pats his cheek.) I think
you’re nice too.
46
Jacob (exasperated): Madam, this establishment is not a pet…
Old Woman (interrupting): Of course it’s wet, you nitwit. In case you
haven’t noticed, it is raining cats and dogs out there.
Jacob: I was just going to say this is a realty office.
Old Woman: I know that, silly boy, that’s why I’m here (pause) about
my kitty. (She turns back to Levi. When she does, Jacob draws circles
around his ear…the universal sign for “NUTCASE!”)
Levi: I really am sorry we can’t be of any help to you. (He picks up
phone.) Perhaps I could call someone.
Old Woman (shocked): Gun! Goodness, gracious, no! I don’t want to
buy a gun. I want to buy a mouse for my kitty. (Before Levi can reply,
the Old Woman opens the canvas bag at her feet, pulls out a dead cat
that’s been stuffed and mounted, and places it on Levi’s desk. Star-
tled, Levi jumps up, knocking over his chair.)
Levi (gasping): Good Lord, woman! What the hell is that…that…
thing? (Old Woman pets the dead cat.)
Old Woman: Why this is my kitty. Isn’t she just precious?
Levi: Lady, would you kindly get that disgusting thing off my desk.
Jacob (breaking in): Now, hold on just a minute, Levi. Now that the
cat is out of the bag…so to speak…I think I know what is going on
here. (He turns to the old woman.) If I am not mistaken, you want to
buy a mouse for a house with cat like that.
Old Woman (Beaming): Exactly.
Jacob: And, would you like some cheese to go with that mouse?
(The Old Woman claps her hands excitedly, like a little girl given a
birthday gift.)
Old Woman (gleefully): Oh, yes, yes; and a little pink ribbon tied in a
bow around its neck. That would look sooo cute.
Levi (in disbelief): What the hell are you two babbling about? Are you
both nuts?

47
Old Woman (fanning herself): Oh, do be quiet, dear, and get me
some water, please. It is dreadfully hot in here.

(Levi moves out from behind his desk.)


Levi (muttering to himself): Gladly (pause) if it’ll get you out of here
any sooner, you old dingbat.
(When his back is turned to them, the Old Woman and Jacob ex-
change grins and give each other the thumbs up.)
Jacob: You might be more comfortable if you took off your coat.
(The Old Woman stands and removes her coat and, at the same time,
the wig she is wearing. The audience now sees she is not old, but a
shapely young lady. This is Lena. Still holding the wig, she moves
silently to stand behind Levi who is filling a paper cup full of water.)
Lena (still in voice of Old Woman): While you’re being so helpful,
would you be a dear and have this deloused. (She drops the wig on
Levi’s shoulder.) I’m afraid my poor kitty has fleas.
(When he sees what is on his shoulder—acting like someone has
dropped a poisonous spider on him—Levi drops the cup of water on
the floor, lets out a little scream, spins around trying to wipe off the
wig. When he sees Lena standing in front of him, he looks like he’s
seen a ghost.)
Levi (in shock): Lena?! (Levi faints.)

END SCENE.

48
Villanelly Kelly Sings the Blues
Jason Darrah

When Cracked
my heart in half,
was sad and I fell for
bent me twain, I you. Left alone
felt like I was through. on my broken throne,
Villanelly lunar dancing,
Kelly, what breathing thick
did you cobalt
do? blue.

You sang a song so true... You sang a song so true...

And You
the birds, placed your
they split in bow against
two, muzzled their my leg, and played
beaks and silenced their until it sawed right
feet, so they could through, leaving me
hear twice as without a
much of single
you. clue.

You sang a song so true... You sang a song so true...

You played me for a fool.

49
Author Bios
James Shadden: Writing allows me to put some thoughts on paper. It
gives me the opportunity to express myself without confrontation.

J. Powell: Writing momentarily frees me from the reality I live in. I


like taking breaks sometimes, exploring different experiences.

Rodney D. Lampman: I am a 32-year-old husband. I have 4 daughters


and a great family. We all live in Des Moines, Iowa on the South side.
At the moment I am serving a 25 year sentence. I have always loved
poetry and higher learning. I write for my family and friends, mostly
for my wife Danette though.

Eric A. Stannard: I never “try.” To try means: to attempt without suc-


cess. I do it. I may not do it well at first, but I never quit, and I always
strive to do it better. I give it all to succeed, and I do it all for the ones
I love.

Burke Frink: I use my writing to prove to myself, and the world, that
I am smarter than a monkey. Problem is, I only end up proving the
opposite.

Robert Matheson: I miss the simplicity of youth, my children, and a


good steak. I find it hard to find the words to thank all the Grinnell
volunteers for everything they have meant to me and others—except
to say: you have inspired me to be a better person, and to remember
that Yeats was right, “Life is a circle.” Never forget that.

Jason Darrah: My older brother once made me eat a whole handful


of butter-flavored Crisco. My experience with Grinnell has been the
opposite of that. Lotsa danke schöns.

Kenneth Bolen: Finds comfort in scrawling poems about the songs


of trees, whispers of stones, language of flora and fauna, and distant
journeys; unfolding infinite fathoms of Earth, Space, and Time. My
inspiration comes from my two great kids (Bret and Britta), family,
friends, and nature.
50
Justin DeMoss: I like to write to express how I feel and because it al-
lows me to be creative.

Tim Petersen: For many years I have known that I carry a message
to share and my only option is learning to write because I really can’t
sing and no one listens to me when I talk.

Takowa Talley: I write poetry and philosophy because it gets me away


from prison life; it also allows me to express myself in ways that only
I can understand. My first name was given to me by my aunt who is
half Tongan. My aunt told me of an ancient warrior of her ancestral
heritage named Takowa, meaning, “The Great One.” My purpose for
this story is to allow definition to the pieces you might read from me;
they may one day be famous!

Joseph Riffey: I have five shining sons (Josie, Dakotah, Dylan, Dal-
ton, and Gabriel) who light up my life and inspire me from a vast
world inside my heart. I love you and think of you every single day.
Waiting…always waiting to see you again.

Stephen Miller: I have triplet daughters and a son. I enjoy writing


poetry and short stories. I was born in Oahu, Hawaii.

J.K. Bruegger: I am 25 years old. I enjoy writing because it clears my


mind and helps to relieve stress. Writing has no boundaries, just your
imagination which makes it a great outlet.

Lewis Ayala: This is the last place I ever thought I’d see something I
wrote, glad I gave it a shot.
Randy J. Ekstrom: To DJ, whose words have helped teach me to
write…to breathe freely.
James Arbogast: I write because it is easier to express my feelings on
paper than trying to express them with spoken words.
Christopher Levy: Everything I do is for the love of my daughter, Al-
liyonna, whom I cherish above all things in life.
51