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Landing in a Field of Feathers


Cover art: “Russian Castle with Unicorn” by Ashlea Karkula, Interact Center.


INTRODUCTION From poetry to memoir, our students jumped into writing with great abandon. Though we had a small class, the work they produced was in no way small. They dealt with topics from lost family (Deb Eaton’s “A Man with War and Peace”) to recent memories (Ethan Bussiere’s “The Trip of Discovery”) and many things in between. Their writing is evocative and emotional. Some of it experiments with form and rhythm in brave new ways (thanks, Ethan, for pushing us forward with your poetry!). Every week the classroom filled with vibrant minds, willing to read Pablo Neruda and write their own Odes to Common Things. The room filled with joy for an apple’s “sharp tender taste of juiciness,” as Thomas Robinson so eloquently puts it. We journeyed with Joan Didion as she encountered New York City for the first time and told our own stories of places that feel like home. The voices you hear in this collection are witty, irreverent, and brimming with imagination. You’ll never read a music review in quite the same way after you’ve heard Dar Cieminski describe the Charmed soundtrack as the music of “good girls / and sisterhood.” Bruce Zentic brings the landscape of the Twin Cities to life with his rhythmic story of Rainbow Market: Rainbow, Rainbow. Like a warm day going inside. I’d get some juice and water like a small bag of chips and bring back a can of chili and some pasta to go with it. Rainbow.


And in his “Growing Up,” Robert Bergerson gives advice in clear, Hemingway-esque language: Make the right decisions. Do what’s best for her. She should meet other people. She should make the right decisions about love. This collection might be different than others you’ve read before, and that’s for good reason: the authors presented here rarely have the opportunity to have their voices published for a wide audience. They present new perspectives and are worth engaging with on more than a surface level. People with developmental disabilities are often forgotten; this collection asks us to remember. Replete with memories, stories, and unforgettable images (Deb, we’ll never forget your “field of feathers”), these are pieces just waiting for a reader’s imagination. What, then, are you waiting for? We invite you to take Ethan’s challenge: “Come and take me on / ‘Cause I’m ready to become / What I’m meant to become!” Annika Sampson Anja Beth Swoap Cow Tipping Press March 2016


ADVICE TO DAUGHTER

by Thomas Robinson

Be nice to people. Don’t be mean to people. Be nice to your elders. Be nice to people with disabilities. Be an advocate for yourself. Always be on time. Sometimes be late. Always hold your hand when you cross the street. Don’t jaywalk. Don’t hurt other people. Don’t hurt yourself. Be positive. Don’t let the evil beast destroy you.

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A PAINFUL MEMORY

by Ethan Bussiere

The house I saw in front of me was green with a grass yard and flowers along the front of the house. It took me a moment to take it all in. The backyard was brick with a patio. The garage was sided with green siding as well. As I went to open the door, I saw a wreath on the door. It took me back. After being gone for so long, it warmed my heart to see this one last time. I walked into my mother’s home, waiting for that familiar sound and smell of coffee in the morning and baked dinner of the night smell. But all I got was silence. The smell of dried wood and dust. My mother was at the last day in the hospital before she passed on. And she was selling the house before she died.

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I sat on the familiar couch and cried. It took me this long to realize the reality of the situation. My connection to my house was through my mother and with her gone, I had no one left. No safe haven. I stood and looked around one last time. Closed the door and took from my car the “For Sale� sign. Stuck it in the ground and got in my car to head to the hospital to see my mother one last time.

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LA ROUGE

by Dar Cieminski

In Paris, La Rouge, a French plantation in the War of 1812. Wear those lovely dresses. Write letters. Invite people over for dinner. The house is in France, the people are French, they travel to different places. She gets in the stagecoach with the king and queen. She gets blessed. They go outside on their patio for their dinner, French dish, a quiche frittata.

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THE OUTER LIMIT

by Deb Eaton

I like the evening because it’s so calm, and dark. What I like most is the brightness that comes from my mind and my heart. Evening is a special time. It’s like having evening with nothing to do, yet I like evening because I think about you and me in the moonlight with no one around and therefore I can be happy as a clown. Evening, to me, is just a time for yourself to relax and watch whatever you want and do whatever you want without people shouting and without people being reckless and down. Evening is like an upper first class for me. Because I see more at night than I do day, just because I like night more than day. Night makes me think of many things and I must do whatever I can to overcome the dew. This is why I like evening. 5


ODE TO PICKLES

by Bruce Zentic

Pickles are sour, ‘cause they’re in vinegar or something. Pickle is a cucumber. And pickles are green. Does pickles grow in the garden? Pickles are good to put on sandwiches, once in a while. And pickles do have salt. So that’s all I can think. Cucumber.

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THE ADVENTURES OF GARDEN LIGHTWALKER

by Thomas Robinson

Teacher named Garden Lightwalker went to Paris to meet with his girlfriend named Dolores the Cow. He got there by train-hoverboard and when he got there he saw the cow and turned around and said “Bye, cow.” The cow ran after him and the hoverboard and said, “I love you, I love you!” five thousand times and the man said “No, cows and people don’t mix.” So they got married. She said, “I’d get married to you,” so they got married in Paris. They had 22 kids and 123 grandchildren.

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THE OVERPROTECTIVE MOM

by Ethan Bussiere

Mothers can be overprotective. My opinion is that if you can’t allow someone a chance to be fully independent—well, how do you know they can’t? Some parents think it is being hard to let go. They think that when we stumble they have to be there to catch us, but if we always had a safety net then we could never build the blocks back together again, like an independent person would have to. So how do you become something you’re never allowed to try? It’s like going to dance lessons and being stopped at the door. You’ll never learn to dance if you can’t put your feet on the floor. So all in all, parents should let disabilitied children a chance to try to be independent before they put up the roadblock. They may be surprised at the results. 8


GROWING UP

by Robert Bergerson

She should go back to school. And get a job. Eat the right foods. Don’t smoke. Tell her she needs a vacation. Life is good. She can do whatever she wants to do with her life. Make the right decisions. Do what’s best for her. She should meet other people. She should make the right decisions about love. She should find somebody that she’s interested in. She should go to church on Sundays. And be good to herself.

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HOW NIGHT MAKES ME FEEL

by Thomas Robinson

Night creeping along the way Knocking on people’s doors saying, “Boo! Boo! Boo!” Tiptoeing in the room into the grownups’ room. I smell the garbage of the night. It smells like sometimes perfume. Tiptoeing across the pond. If I jump into the pond I feel relaxed and have fresh water.

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RAINBOW MARKET

by Bruce Zentic

Usually Richfield, usually biking around. That was a long a time ago. It’s not there anymore. It’s still on Lake Street. Rainbow! Yeah, like going in there and buying something. Like a burger, it’s like back at the deli like a burger salad casserole. Then I’d have with it chips. Usually meat like salami, like cold meat. It looks like Subway. Usually the bakery. Sometimes it be like bakery goods like a stuffed turnover like apple cherry. Like flowers. All I know, you go to a certain place, they have flowers. You smell flowers and cantaloupe. I’d get all these pounds of almonds and stuff. All cut up, get apples and pear and cherries. Hmm. The guy I think working where you’d pay like the cashier. Do they have a thing you talk through? And they ring up like a six pack of water. 11


Sometimes I get like a stuffed burrito. Their pot pies are pretty good. It’s got fruit and vegetables and the deli, where they got stuff like ham and turkey. I like, sometimes, a pickle and like a green olive. They sound good. Let’s see where they shop around and get groceries, once in a while canned goods. I used to like it going in there. Yeah, it’s a Rainbow, it was like items at Kmart. They have shoes and bikes. They took that out so it was like Rainbow. It’s like a Rainbow ‘cause they have the stuff spraying on the groceries. Is that a regular grocery store? Rainbow, Rainbow. Like a warm day going inside. It was cool. I’d get some juice and water like a small bag of chips and I’d bring back a can of chili and some pasta to go with it. Rainbow. There was a place where people push carts outside and put groceries in the car for people. Yeah, busy

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place. It’s still there. It would go whoo with the wheels, the aluminum carts. They still have them at Cub. Alright, like fried chicken and I don’t know if they had corn dogs and tuna. I didn’t care for that. Rainbow, you don’t see many of them around.

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THE TRIP OF DISCOVERY

by Ethan Bussiere

I traveled to New York. The plane ride was much easier than I expected. The taxi ride even at night was full of life. The streets were busy and alive, however the taxi ride was crazy though. I have never been in such a crazy drive in my life. We got there okay but man, that was a little interesting. The hotel was great but the city was a total letdown. I was expecting New York! You know, the ones you see in movies. What I saw was normal in comparison. The musical theatre was okay, very expensive but okay, not much different than those elsewhere. However, the shows were great. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, just wasn’t all it was hyped up to be.

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THE CHARMED ONES

by Dar Cieminski

There’s an album I like, the Charmed soundtrack from the TV series. Their theme song, the group is called Love Spit Love. They sing “I am the sun, I am the air, I am the moon” and “How Soon is Now?” Kind of clashes the Cranberries, too. They’re good. Their singing is good. It shows about the sisters that take responsibility for what’s going on. They’re not just witches, but they’re best friends. They take care of each other. Memories, good memories. They’re good girls / and sisterhood.

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A MAN WITH WAR AND PEACE

by Deb Eaton

I know somebody who was dear to me. He didn’t say much but yet it did not bother me. This person was very direct and very humble. He did not like getting into trouble. He liked trees, tall and thin, but the wind blew within him. I miss his smiling face every morning at breakfast. He had coffee with me and ate doughnuts with me. That was very calming to me because he put a lot of warmth into his thoughts, and mine. That when he talked to somebody, it was so clear and he had no trouble in his mind. He made his life filled with love that when it came right down to it, it felt like a piece of feather dust. This man was a fighter. He fought for his country but most of all, his family came first. I still think of him singing to me and that made me feel good in one way and sad in 16


another. It’s like landing in a field of feathers, not knowing where they come from or where they’ve been. Just knowing where he came from, within.

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GRATITUDE TO PLANTS

by Bruce Zentic

It’s like the plants need rain and sun, then they’ll grow. Feeding the plants after it gets some sun, it’ll grow. Then it will grow. When the fall comes the leaves will turn and it’ll all fall out. In the winter they die off, then the plants are all dead. The plants they would stay alive, they wouldn’t die out and plants never grow lilacs like the purple. Only the trees, bushes. And I know trees grow leaves. Small leaves and big leaves. And dandelions come from—they used to remind me, ‘cause they’re like yellow, remind me of butter. Dandelions, dandelions, what’s in them? Why they’re yellow? Sunflower, sunflower.

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MY LUCY FRIEND WHO SMELLS LIKE PICKLES

by Robert Bergerson

I have a friend named Lucy, Lucy Friend. She smells like pickles. She likes to go to school. And her friends tease her because she smells like pickles. She wears pretty dresses. She likes to go to dances with her boyfriend, who also smells like pickles. She goes to camping with her boyfriends. She has two sisters and a cat named Fluffy. They like to watch football games together. They all like to eat pickles.

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A PLACE CALLED WORK

by Deb Eaton

I once had a job that really sucked. It had no real meaning to me. The people are not very nice and they were insensitive. And then my second job, it was a little bit better but they made me feel like a child. I felt like I was back in school. All day all we did was color and do ABCs, but if I wanted to have a job it would have to be something towards electronics. I think electronics is very interesting and challenging. A TV is like a picture in a picture because it could be a person within limits. I would hate to be an object because I would hate to be turned off and turned every five minutes and never being able to rest. Even though the object has no feelings, we must take care of it because if we don’t we won’t have anything to work with or stimulate

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our brains. I might watch a lot of TV but it gives me some real stimulation, whatever that is. Without having a brain we would be like, just empty bodies without being able to speak, move, or do anything. I think it’s wonderful how the brain stimulates your happiness, sadness, and whatever you feel. This is why I would like to be a machine.

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GRATITUDE TO THE GREAT SKY

by Thomas Robinson

Gratitude to the Great Sky Sweet memories of night and day So many stars So little time to learn about them all. The sun rises and the sun goes down. The moon goes up and the night comes dark.

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THE INVISIBLE

by Deb Eaton

I wish I had a friend. An imaginary friend who I could talk to when I’m having a dreary day. If I had that friend I would feel like everything was okay. Sometimes I feel like passing through a dark room. Not knowing where to go, but end up lost in my own little world. Sometimes an imaginary friend is safer because they don’t overstep their boundaries. They let you have your own space and mind. I wish some people would be imaginary because they would be so easy for me to get along with them and not worry about consequences. I wish my childhood was imaginary because then I wouldn’t be stuck in this body, fighting my way through. But who’s to say that would be cool?

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THE UNKNOWN

by Ethan Bussiere

The unknown was my fear Who would be my teacher? Who would be my friend? Will I succeed or will I fail? Will the end be a happy tale? All that lays ahead creeps me Like the rising dead The End is finally here I have nothing to fear I am now of legal age So it’s time to start a new page The unknown sits on the horizon But daylight beckons me Forward So let the future come Come and take me on ‘Cause I’m ready to become What I’m meant to become!

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CHILDHOOD THEMES

by Dar Cieminski

A police dog, I don’t know what the name of the police dog is. Let’s call him Shepherd. He’s surviving a gunshot. He got shot in the head. It’s not very nice. It’s gonna take a little time for him to recover, but I’d like to hear more stories about good things. I like the movie Free Willy 1, 2, and 3. I guess you could say childhood themes, with the mother with the broken dorsal. That was a true story. I think it’s important that people keep their violence to a minimum and start a revolution and find the right answer. I’d like to see more of the raptor centers for the wounded animals. I’d like to see more adopted dogs, cats. Generally, good things like art and music help soothe the boredom. We know about the bad, we know about the good, what about the revolutionary? 25


PEOPLE CONES

by Thomas Robinson

People cones for sale get them with cinnamon or vanilla get them hot or cold.

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CONTRIBUTORS Robert Bergerson is a great poet, a very good poet. He likes to say what’s on his mind. It’s like enjoying life every day. Ethan Bussiere loves to write fantasy short stories. He also likes to write poems and lyrics. He feels his writing comes from his vast imagination. He can’t keep his mind quiet, so why not write it? Dar Cieminski likes to write poetry. She’s from Minneapolis. She’s in a group home. She likes to write. Free will. Deb Eaton is a very particular person but she’s also a good person. And she speaks her mind and lets people know who she is and what she entails. Thomas Robinson is from Minneapolis. He lives in Bloomington. He has a twin brother. He likes to draw. He’s a self-advocate. He likes writing about anything and everything. Bruce Zentic is from Minneapolis. He likes old cars and phonographs, stereos, and radios. He likes writing about certain stuff that grows, like lilacs. He likes dandelions like butter. He still likes his cucumber pickles. He likes lights and “go” signs. He likes riding a bike.


Cow Tipping Press teaches and publishes writing by adults with developmental disabilities, encouraging readers to see this form of human diversity in a new way. For more information or to browse our entire collection, visit cowtippingpress.org.


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