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Editor and Publisher Nadia Giordana—Cloud 9 Publishing Blog: Email: Associate Editor Mary Deal Author, Writer, Pushcart Prize Nominee Website: Apprentice Editor Brittany Mabusth Currently at college

Front Cover: “Fresh Picked” acrylic on canvas by Megan Duncanson Megan Duncanson grew up in the bush of Alaska near the small fishing village, Meyers Cuck. The only way to get where she lived was by boat or float plane, there were not (and still are not) any roads. The only source of electricity was individual generators. Heat was provided by wood-burning stoves. Her family didn't have phones or cable TV, it was roughing it at its best! After she graduated from High School in Ketchikan, Alaska, she headed off to begin college at Hawaii Pacific University on the island of Oahu, and she holds a bachelor’s and master's degree in Political Science from the University of Central Florida. Over the course of her life, she has always painted and sold her art, and, as each year passes, sh e g ain s more and more acclaim. She is currently devoting herself full-time to her art career and to being a wife to her husband Robert and a mom to a very active 15-year-old volleyball player, Aroon Melane, who is considered to be one of the top five Freshman volleyball players in the State of Alaska.

Back Cover: “Urns and Roses” by Nadia Giordana Are YOU in it?

Contributing writers and artists alphabetical by last name: Asqarini

Mark Leep

Jeffrey Alfier

Michael Levy

Connie Anderson

Lyn Lifshin

Peter Bates

George Longenecker

Richard N. Bentley

David McAdam

Jerry Pat Bolton

Sue Midliak

Wendy Brown-Baez

Elaine Rosenberg Miller

Kyle Chase

Liz Minette

Tobi Cogswell

Nancy Nieken

TD Conner

Dave Nielsen

Geoffrey Craig

John O’Connor

Janann Dawkins

Karen O’Leary

Mary Deal

William Parsons

Daniel De Culla

Simon Perchik

Susan K. deVegter

Kathleen J. Pettit

Matt Dennison

Valerie Poulin

Megan Duncanson

Chantel Schott

Virginia Lynn Emrick

Robb Sewell

Richard Fein

Jess Smith

Elizabeth P. Glixman

LeAnn Snider

John Mark Green

Sue Stein

Sara Bella Harris

C.P. Stewart

Jill Hoffmann

Meg Tuite

Vivekanand Jha

Allison Whittenberg

Guy Kettelhack

Leonore Wilson

Nikki Laliberte

Alessio Zanelli

Oct. 2010: To Purchase issues of Mississippi Crow, go to (best price) or also Mississippi Crow magazine takes its name from its location—near the confluence of the Mississippi and Crow rivers in Dayton Minnesota. We publish artwork, poetry, flash fiction, articles and essays (on a variety of subjects). To see our guidelines, go to: Copyright © 2010 Cloud 9 Publishing, ISSN 1934-5631. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form—electronic, mechanical or other means without prior consent of the publisher and/or of the authors of the individual works. All rights revert to authors upon publication.


Sea Glass—Mary Deal 2

Mississippi Crow Magazine

The Window Seat Our arms touched ever so lightly from close and forced sharing. I shut my eyes—a protective curtain, shuttering my limited privacy. I could feel him looking quizzically At the pretending-to-sleep me, sitting, oh so still in seat 23A.

“Captive audience” was not, nor would ever be on my resume, But as the angle of the plane changed slightly, I did it…I moved. And he knew I was a conscious, belted-in, imprisoned listener. He began to tell me about his life—against my wishes and will.

As he took a deep breath before rambling on, I made some quick mental notes, Memorizing the parts of his life that were juicy and ripe For the pages of my next novel—already late to my agent.

So when “The Window Seat” is released next fall, And you recognize your life—not mine, The next time your seatmate feigns sleep, maybe you’ll think twice Before letting careless words so freely give your life away.

—Connie Anderson

Are YOU in it?


My Own World


Some people dance with the mountains. Others dance with the beach. But here I sit with my pencil, Dancing with my thoughts.

The lurch cannot be satiated. The fissured lips of the earth thirsts against the soles

I can ride a silver-white star Or sail on the ocean blue. I can stand away and watch the crowd – Without ever joining you. I can know a thousand thoughts And write them down in harmony. But I can’t ever know your kind of happiness. Somehow, I was placed in a different world That hasn’t any boundaries. You’re fenced-in by who you are, But I live a million dreams. I find my tomorrow by surviving my today, And I create my own world – Far, far away. —Virginia Lynn Emrick

of passersby. Pursed and prominent, the ground striates, cracks underfoot like skin cleaving into membrane. A yawn abyss. Like a jaw, columns of parliament snap flat. Ribs of hospital arc in open sunshine. Avenues ruby themselves with the blood of passersby. Paupers, princes, all grind in the great

Artwork by Chantel Schott

tectonic maw. ÑJanann Dawkins

Alzheimer's Poetry leaks from her eyes. Images streak her teeth, plaques of memory tasteless as ice. Words pour from her bladder into the bedpan, drip along her calves to the floor. ÑJanann Dawkins


Mississippi Crow Magazine

I am the Titanic Sinking

Nightclub Singer, Il Tazza Blu Café Carcassonne, France

My eyeglasses have feet. Like caterpillars they crawled away when I was looking for the pin that didn’t drop. I’ve been looking for my glasses for hours. Things are not in their right places Or anywhere close by. In the drawer where I put the recent receipts for food, There are no glasses. In the drawer where I put the old receipts for dining out, There are no glasses. In the drawer where I put returned receipts for exchanged items, There are no glasses. And in the box where the bills to be paid sit, There are No glasses. In the wood thing on the wall with the key ring hangers There are no glasses. I’d like to guillotine all the things I can’t find and the things I have to do I’ve looked for my metal-rimmed glasses With my tired eyes blinking like red lights at midnight. The air around me is stale. I can’t open the windows becauseI can’t find the keys that unlock the new locks Or the phone number of the over priced contractor. And I have not heard the pin drop. I place my tired hand on the top of my head with its unruly hair. The hairdresser’s phone number is not in my address book. But something glass and metal rimmed is on top Of my head laughing.

Her voice is a causeway crossing midnights, the kind of woman men phone just to hear her breathe on the other end. But this crowd wants her song of the last good man she had, the luminous sneer of a gibbous moon slowing the pace of her contralto voice. Syncing with chords in brokenhearted keys, the tones, like flames, unfurling on her tongue will hum the nightclub’s windowpanes alive. Her 10:00 pm to 2:00 am stint done, she loosens her blouse, kicks aside high heels, stabs worn nerves back to life with black coffee in counterclockwise swirls of spooned sugar – as if against time, as dimmed stage lighting flicks shadows couples cast on the dance floor, an opaque glissading like the serpent Cleopatra let slide between her breasts, one last lover never closing his eyes. —Jeffrey Alfier

Artwork by Chantel Schott

—Elizabeth P. Glixman

Little Angels Listen to a door: Love has gotten into Hell Sins of the Rainbow¡ —Daniel de Cullá Are YOU in it?


No one goes quietly

The News

Not even dogs… Four blocks away and I barely knew the man who owned thirty beige suits. The man who said hello to my virginal smile day after day. This happens in the city, this happens everywhere. Strangers become friends. They said he wouldn’t leave his apartment when his eyes were wet and vacant. When the stench of dirty dishes and yesterday’s molded trash began to triumph the hopeless life within its walls.

Reminds me of that night in New Orleans once I promised marriage—barefoot black-haired cartoon wolf with one suspender snapping through a red and yellow landscape of crazy tilted buildings, rubber sky bouncing strident sirens and balloon-tired buses back to cataract streets as I gathered the world in gulps, swallowed bad nails by the handful, blue bricks by the wall, upended the Mississippi, chewed the moon trying to seduce fuel from the snake-haired Egyptian, the slim-footed Chinese all astonished to refusal by what big eyes, what big teeth I had before burning off my scrap mental to reveal the steady flaming structure within.

He buried his dog three days ago in the field behind my house. I told him it was all right. And in all the space that clawed like wolves and then swept between us, we stood on the edge in the silences, in the pouring rain, watching the rivulets of water dance over his beige suit. It smelled like mothballs and the newly ignored fragrance of his apartment. I kept quiet, but the thought fell across my heart like an anchor, and I was powerless to bring him back to me. This happens in the city, this happens everywhere. Friends become strangers. —Sara Bella Harris

Release—by Jill Hoffmann

—Matt Dennison


Home again, latchkey. The curious insignia & corollary match. ÑJanann Dawkins

Mississippi Crow Magazine

My Poem Falters and Falls

Glen Sannox through the lens of partial colour blindness

I write with ink of blood To testimonialize and give A touch of eternity to it But my poem falters and falls In the poetry of the world.

Being partially colour blind I’ve always shied away from painting subjects with more than around four colours, preferring to work in monochrome in particular. Be this as it may, the décor in our house where wall pictures are concerned is largely masculine, consisting of my mainly female artwork. I felt the need to address this imbalance by dedicating more feminine subjects to my wife, Wendy. Knowing of her love for the Isle of Arran in the west of Scotland; I sensed she’d appreciate some paintings of her favourite island landmarks. The drawback for me of course was the amount of colour that would be involved. How would my partial colour blindness cope with the confusing tones? Browsing the internet I found a picture of Glen Sannox, her favourite quiet place, as it were. At first glance the colours that leaped into my vision were green, brown, and blue. Closer scrutiny of the image revealed substantially more colour, prompting me to back off from attempting it. However, knowing Wendy’s fondness for this particular spot, I decided to approach the task using the three colours that I initially glanced. Moreover, being one who stubbornly refuses to read ‘how to paint’ manuals, I also determined that the landscape would consist of my own undiluted style where producing the various textures was concerned (e.g. grass and rock etc). Through trial and error and also overcoming the occasional temptation to abandon the challenge, I worked periodically at the painting for nearly a month. The end result was personally satisfying not only for me but also for Wendy. I also felt a sense of release from what I can only describe as the bondage that my colour blindness exercised over my artwork. More island landmarks, however colourful, now beckon me to paint as I see them. The walls are beginning to reflect that certain feminine touch that makes for a homely house.

I pluck words from A flowery and ornate garden And weave a garland of them To adorn the world But they trample it Under their feet Like they crush the stub Of the cigarette to prevent it From catching the fire. I discover the words Hidden in the unhaunted Recess of the mind And juxtapose them Like an ideal couple Of bride and bridegroom At bridal chamber And turn my poem on new leaf But they tilt their stony eyes And turn deaf ears to it. I infuse my heart and soul Into the poem Thinking it would be The best and the last of my life But they simply say: Since it is the beginning You would learn by mistakes.

—Essay and oil painting (below) by David McAdam, 2010.

—Vivekanand Jha

autumn afternoon dented cans rattle in a rusted barrel —Karen O’Leary

Are YOU in it?


The tree still terrified, its veins bulging with sea water —a great war canoe capsized and this ground beginning to move more and more a sea laid out on stones --I rake this yard flow over those arms even you would remember would throw off your sleeves to watch the moon leaving —you still whitewash these stones can hear the dead turning back so close to water --my tangled hair still trying to take root and around my neck the sea

The Pier A taunt line draws me back and back again, as if I am both standing on the pier and swimming free in the foam below. In the distance, the shore, broad and beckoning. The overhead sun beats down, burning all, blinding all. I hold the slipping rod in my hands. I cast again. The metal pellet pulls the line down, down. A pelican, its sagging pouch swinging, approaches. Part threatening, part curious. Yet my feet are rooted on the splintery timbers, the salty breeze embracing me, encircling me, enveloping me. I stay, despite all. —Elaine Rosenberg Miller

dragging this tree to its death --even after death the moonlight —for awhile, some shade and the longing. —Simon Perchik


“Kathe’s Onions” Photo by Peter Bates

Mississippi Crow Magazine

No Regrets You say “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking” I step gingerly on light bulbs “and I know I’ve been hard on you” arms wide for balance, toes curved on the smoothness “and it’s really unfair” my feet are like a baby’s I must not lose focus “I hope you can forgive me” warmth from the lamps brings me back to times I don’t even remember “because if you can’t, it’s clear you’re insane” a tumbleweed garnished with ribbon, faded satin masks the stickery bits “I always put myself out there for you, and I get nothing in return” I want to dance.

Randolph Center Cemetery Children wander through the cemetery as the first snow of autumn falls in amber light. Snowflakes alight on slate gravestones. Kids shuffle through maple leaves and roll in the new snow upon a child’s grave. Children on their way home stumble over souls, slip and slide on wet maple leaves. On their way home, children walk over bones. Children sing on their way home. Snowflakes pelt slate stones in pale afternoon light. Children fade from view, fade into snow. —George Longenecker

—Toby Cogswell

Winter—Photo by LeAnn Snider

Are YOU in it?


Experience I’M A WRITER. Okay, maybe a wannabe writer. I’ve been hooked ever since I got a 600-word story about turtles published in an online rag. Didn’t pay anything, but at least I got to see myself in print. Well okay, not in print, but on the screen. They always say, Write what you know. Problem is, I don’t know much--outside of turtles, that is. But that, I mean my experience, is limited. I’ve led a rather sheltered existence. The result is I’m casting about for a subject. Which means of course, that I have to go out and get some experience. Problem is, I’m agoraphobic. I keep pretty much to the apartment, except for brief, hurried trips to the local grocery. But to get experience I would have to go out. Maybe the solution is to go out, but not far. In the apartment down the hall lives Mrs. McGillicuddy, a widow of about seventy, with her six cats. I have fantasies about Mrs. McGillicuddy, certainly not sexual ones, but definitely violent ones. I want to kill her. X-rated for violence. Why? Well, I discovered by accident— by opening her misdelivered bank statement, thinking it was mine—that she has over three hundred thousand dollars in a savings account. So why does she live in a dump like this? And why does her son, in his forties, look like a tramp when I see him visiting her about once a week? And Sally, the young woman across the hall, tells me that Robert, the son, works at McDonalds and lives in a hovel with his wife and kid. Please don’t think that I have any designs on Mrs. McGillicudy’s money. Any money I get I want to be the result of my literary efforts, and not some sordid crime. But what I’m thinking is that her death would immensely benefit her son. And above all, give me something to write about. Maybe what put the idea into my head was that I finally got around to reading Crime and Punishment. You will recall that Dostoevsky has the hero—the protagonist anyway—murder an old woman, a usurious money lender, by bringing an axe down on her head. Raskalnikov reasons that he is doing the world a favor by ridding it of the greedy old woman. Sure, Raskalnikov eventually was arrested, but he definitely had a story to tell.

aluminum softball bat left here by the previous tenant.. Perfect. Just enough to bash in the head of Mrs. McGillicuddy. And when I do, I’ll take note of everything—the surroundings, her terrified look, her death agonies, my feelings, the sound of the bat striking that frail greedy head, etc, etc. Above all, a writer is an observer—or so I’m told. *** Well, it happened. And I’m desolate. Not because Mrs. McGillicuddy is dead, but because I can’t remember a thing. I seemed to have some king of memory loss, like I was the one sustaining the trauma. I do remember taking the bat and going to her door and knocking. And she answered. After that, it’s pretty much a blur, and what I know, I had to piece together from evidence after the fact. Apparently I called 911 (somebody did anyway) from my phone. When the police showed up, they found her dead on the floor, with no marks of violence on her. And they found me cowering in my apartment, still clutching the bat. Since they thought I was the one who had summoned them, they seemed to eliminate me as a suspect. After all, there was no evidence that she had died violently. In fact, they took the easy way out and attributed her death to natural causes. I guess she had had a heart attack when I raised the bat above her head— presuming that’s what I did. Her son, by the way, got none of the money. It was left instead to her cats, the funds to be administered by the SPCA.

—John Mark Green John Mark Green reports that he lives much like the protagonist in this story. He vehemently denies, however, having anything to do with the death of Mrs. McGillicuddy.

But an axe? Not for me. Too heavy and obvious, for one thing, and too messy. Why would an apartment dweller need an axe anyway? But what I do have is an 10

Mississippi Crow Magazine

Window in the Morning The light fell across the bed, for she had slept in that day and he had woken early, reading before toast and tea, and she called out to him, the light by now making its passage-way over framed photographs, the jar of withered zinnias and carnations, and assembled books layered symmetrically like old stones piled on a hill…. Almost a child’s game for her, calling him, sing-songing his dreamy name until he came, his hands cold as flowers, his slightly screwed-shut eyes, and then from the open tome he read to her of a town called Muynoq by the Aral Sea, a once bustling resort where ship carcasses lie beached sideways in the harbor now, fish-canning plants abandoned, where huge rivers once the size of the Nile had been sundered to irrigate the cotton fields, cotton, horn- of-plenty, that once clothed the Red Army, then sold the whole world over; the inflow of rivers stubbed-out that used to feed the Aral Sea, the sea itself evaporating. Salt poisoning the cotton fields, poisoning the people, blowing in sandstorms and where one in every twenty babies is ghostly-limbed, where mothers’ milk is so ungodly salty babies will not suckle….. She hears the cadence of his voice unsparing, definitive like air-raid warnings, feels the nimble fingers that bracelet hers, fingers that march singularly like sacred fountains over her naked belly, breasts, heart with its grim forging, for this is their way of cleaving to each other, to read straightforwardly about the darkening earth, tales of penance paid, and of toil to come and silence, motheaten silence, all the more hurling and horrible…. —Leonore Wilson

Are YOU in it?


A Final Pillage A sharp, red stare through bloodshot eyes and a crumpled brow —an introduction to the madness we seek as we boom, restless and reckless, through Midwestern cornfields and winding Rocky Mountain roadways. A trek at terminal velocity for a trio of terminal men. Hovering a half-foot above hell-bound highways, veins overflowing with nicotine and vials of truck stop speed, our travels are as much about finding home as they are about finding hope for a generation of doomed TV zombies. Still, we would inevitably find neither, though blasting our way past Nebraskan coppers and the warp-speed overhead lights of the Ike Tunnel, we would at the very least find escape: Escape from a dying sun; Escape from fools; and finally Escape from our former selves. For one wondrous week, we were not the weak and we were not the wary or the worried. We were the wild and the wicked: We were, at long last, warriors!

The other, that tiresome ogre whose only contributions to our trip was about two hours of driving time, and a seemingly nonstop supply of grunts and complaints —enough so that his whines became a regular joke shared by myself and the kid— he stared smugly at the glowing sky and said nothing. In fact, none of us did; crashing hard and fast, we silently loaded ourselves back into the exhausted Mazda and made our way into the light, never to speak again. —Kyle Chase

Caw Procul omen abesto! — OVID While strolling the boondocks, notably in the days of late winter, when ravens happen to stand in your way and boldly croak at you— did you ever notice how they let you draw ever closer with the passing of time, how they retard their flying up as wrinkles increase on your face? Both their waiting and your expectancy shorten. And they seem to know.

And with my compatriot's stupidly sentimental desire to soil the soil of every single state through which we sped,

—Alessio Zanelli

We left our stain, just as conquerors from distant lands once left flags! Until, at last, we stood atop a final desert hill to behold the reddish glow illuminating the clouds above our final destination— The Apocalyptic glow justly radiating the City of Sin.


And like a sudden change in the direction of winds, my young friend's face shifted from that mad stare into something overtly innocent by with an unmistakable underlying deviousness: His breezy blond hair and piercing blue eyes combined with a half-cynical smile, and at once, he took on the look of a twenty-first century Rimbaud —fitting, as he was our token l 'enfant terrible. 12

words gathered in seasons… autumn’s crisp leaves nestled among vibrant summer flowers ice crystals of winter melt into spring… contrasts blend on pages portraying life —Karen O’Leary Mississippi Crow Magazine

Writer’s Conference Brochure

Words Leave Me Hungry

Sunny in the new flyer. Everybody’s smiling, writing under the trees. It doesn’t rain, there are no black flies. Flowers in bloom. No one can see the poet who will black ball you when you’re not interested in his bed. Pine smell and night birds camouflage the novelist who packs in the night, moans, “if I don’t get out of here I’ll become an alcoholic or gay.” In the photographs, the giddy cradle their paper babies. It’s like a Christmas card letter of the Happy Family before what’s really going on leaks out

What do cannibals do about dinner when there is nobody around? I remember the first time I had sex only because every other time was better. Do all journeys last forever? I don't write much any more just a line or two per year If the past is deep, is the future shallow? They don't come, the visions All I see is nothing And more nothing It's not like when I was young and throbbing neath that body so much larger than mine everything was bigger than me back then bigger, bolder There is no substitute for human contact Words leave me hungry —Allison Whittenberg

--Lyn Lifshin

Adam’s Other Rib Adam’s other rib, curled up against my side, Will never tempt me with a bad apple -She really only works with sloth and pride. She’s furry and striped and sharp-toothed and subtle And says that the world was created in one day, With six for feline and divine naps: Her week is shaped that way as a result. The curse of war is simply not her fault. Her fights consist of friendship and of play -Attacking feet and conquering free laps. She knows that endless disobedience Has a charm of its own and is no sin. She kneads my side and clings to the pretense That she by burrowing can get back in. —John O’Connor

Color Theory Creeping, spying, turning back, colors grump, connive their way – navigating white and black, purposefully shunning gray. —Poem and art by Guy Kettelhack

Are YOU in it?



Dedicated to Nanette . . .

Holy Ground

Your Name Before I knew, for certain, I was going to die, before I looked death in the eye and bowed, retreating, the days were no less precious, no less sweet, than now, when every love is traced with loss and every joy is fleeting. —C.P. Stewart

I awake early and I have nothing to say but your name. I awake early and I have nothing to remember but your face. I am the wild beast, who, after being befriended, turns to bite the hand so gentle and understanding. I awake early and I have nothing to scream but your name. —Jerry Pat Bolton

Shadowed eyes glitter with crystal tears, beseeching, accusing, with laser warning light reflecting streams of unquenched need and fractured pain. Brim-filled eyes stem stilted babble which strike the heart sounding hollow. Silence dulls the shared sharpness. Grace-feathered, hesitant touches spark holy fire. —Mark Leep

...Lover's Artwork I lie among tasseled brocade and inhale the passion love has made Then feel your form break through the air and suddenly you're standing there I sense your shadow then grab my brush and sketch a line of love for us This form where sable bristles flow is tribute to the love that grows The next smooth stroke is your eyes, they seem half closed, my passion flies Just then a flow of fuller lips to bend and collect your kissing sips Bristled golden moonlit night...shines upon this passion bright Added blues to softer shades, deep within where pleasures' made Hidden trove with treasures deep awaiting plunges fluids creep Deep within the sweep of red nerves launch flesh to spew instead Keep the rhythm hearts partaking and color hunger as it wakens Oranges and magentas flowing into fruity peaches glowing Flesh tones fade then turn rosy, flash of mountain laurel posies Dandelion- yellowed hair...titanium porcelain skin so rare Kissing dots upon each ripple hardened berries of crimson nipples Billowed melons flesh so sweet tender juices ... a lover's feast Legs of salmon-colored skin opening where this love begins Freckled, sienna spots laced about with passion... hot The absolute and firm request from eager Legs entwined once they merge licking smells and arching curves Caressing flames that beg "Come Near!" gently passion speaks, "I'm Here! Opened vees that hug your line splashed on juices...from bold to fine Sketched with colors in their fashion, glowing canvas of sable passion.

Saturday Summer Morning rotting teeth glimpsed in the mirror, the man inhales a camel at the breakfast table and blows smoke rings towards the clapping hands of the two-year-old with maple syrup slithering down his chin. the smell of bacon grease and coffee drifts out to the sun-rich yard where the girl jumps rope and the boy tosses a ball up and down, idly up and down. —Geoffrey Craig

--Susan K. de Vegter 14

Mississippi Crow Magazine

“Men’s Room at Dinosaur World” Photo by Peter Bates

Are YOU in it?


The Excellent Writer Within “The pure joy of writing makes us a success, nothing else will.” The art of good writing comes from the artist within. All humans have the ability to become great authors, poets, artists, and musicians. So why do most folks find it such a difficult task? Why do many people say I could never be a writer or I could never aspire to write poetry? And why do folks who do write get discouraged when their work is rejected? We are what we think, so if we believe we cannot succeed in our daily actions, then for sure we will never get away from our perception of who we think we are. This self-defeating attitude was not of our making. As we were growing up and maturing into adulthood, we were indoctrinated with thousands of negative thoughts. This gave us a belief that we are only a housewife or only a truck driver. This limited vision of our role in life gives us a limited life. People the world over have great creativity. Once we start to understand who we are and the reasons we exist, we start to cultivate eloquent works of creativity. Just writing worthy, meaningful literature will not get the success it deserves unless we possess the resolve to carry on writing in spite of the critics. There will always be those who criticize a writer, no matter how good the composition. Rejection is an everyday experience for most writers. This is a joy we must accept and grow from. Just because someone does not like our essay, does not mean it has no value. It means it was not acceptable to the editor or book reviewer that was reading the essay. We can do two things when we are constantly being rejected. We can give up and say it was not meant to be. Alternatively, we can say, "How do I become a better writer and have my work accepted by more of the ‘establishment’." Once a small section of the general public start to take an interest in our writing, the sheep mentality of the "establishment" will no doubt follow. It always has. It always will. Success breeds success. Until we can find the inner core of creativity and start to write from the soul, we will never become a great writer. We may achieve a modicum of success by writing a few columns for a newspaper or magazine, but that could keep us in a vacuum. We can scrape a living, but may not amass a fortune, for we are trying to write and trying will never cut the mustard. The secret to excellent writing is to enjoy with ecstatic abandonment each letter and syllable we put down on paper. The pure joy of writing makes us a 16

success, nothing else will. Those who tell us we have to struggle and sweat have not grasped true meaning in their lives. We need no approval of any human to be a success. Stop trying to become a success. We are a success already. We were born. We are a success of life. The sperm hit the egg and here we are. Hello, world!! Everything else we do and achieve is just a bonus. Life is to be enjoyed, not endured. Joy brings true meaning to life. Now the next question to ask is, what is Joy? What does Joy mean and how do we achieve it? Look within - take time to silence the mind and feel the texture of nothingness. Smell the perfume of celestial splendor. Discover the sound of cosmic waves flowing though our subconscious mind. Palpate infinity. Breathe eternity. Conceive the splendor of maturating into the essence of a successful writer. Be the word, become the poem, live the adventure. Everything we do is inscribed in our book of life. We just need to learn how to read the instructions written within every cell and molecule of our being. Each tissue and sinew bleeds muscular power of infinite, majestic might. Fly on the wings of limitless mastery. Escape the shrouded cocoon and become the enchanting butterfly. The dreams of authentic reality are about to manifest a rainbow of magical delights. J-ust O-bey Y-ourself — (THE GENIUS)

-—– Michael Levy Michael Levy grew up simply in a poor neighborhood of North Manchester, England. He left school at sixteen, started his own business at nineteen with $100, and was married with two children before he turned twenty-one. He retired successfully from the business world at fortysix and went to live in Florida. After six years of asking profound questions inwardly, he woke up one day and started writing the answers. Michael is now known as a professional optimist. His new book, CUTTING TRUTHS, was released August 1, 2010. He is an international talk show host, philosopher, poet, and the author of ten inspirational books. Michael's poetry, essays, and investigative journalism enhance many websites, newspapers, journals, and magazines throughout the world. He is a prominent speaker on health and wellness maintenance, stress eradication, wealth creation and development, authentic happiness, and inspirational poetry. For More info contact; Michael Levy Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308 Website Mississippi Crow Magazine

No Cure for a Broken Heart “There is no cure for a broken heart,” he says. “Not even time?” she asks, frowning. “You do your time. Surrender day by day and God grant me …” He pauses. “You know how it goes. If only we had the wisdom without the pain.” “What about travel?” she persists. “New friends, tongue twisting language, gorgeous sunsets, unpredictable encounters. Get your mind off of yourself.” “Travel is good if you’re ready for the loneliness that pours down like sand in an hourglass, relentless, there’s that image about time again…” he mutters. “And support groups? Surely you went to some?” she falters. “Another way to remember you’re not the only one.” “…but friends and family?” He looks at her this time, deeply. “Better not try to do without them, an afternoon of smiling at a child’s antics worth more than all the self-help books put together.” But she can tell he isn’t saying everything, holds back from telling her the way friends can’t know (how could they know) how bruised you feel, the black scarf of your grief encircling your shoulders. “What about poetry?” She is determined. “Ah, poetry!” His eyebrows raise. “Here is the secret about poetry… it will crack your heart open (what’s left of it) to let in the world, the miracle of the sublime ordinary, the terror coiled in the beast, how precious we are and how expendable, perfect even through our hearts are broken, even though our songs might warble out of tune.”

—Wendy Brown-Baez

George I’ve known George for decades. He is a genuine, friendly, hardworking and open person, without a lot of formal education. I’ve always enjoyed being with him socially. While sitting with him at the bar during a large party at the Country Club, I asked him if his wife (Marlene) was here. George said she was at the bar in the other room. “She’s not doing a lot of walking since her knee surgery,” he said. “What kind of surgery did she have?” “Oh, she had something torn in her knee. The Hibiscus, I think.” I corrected him. “You mean the Meniscus?” “Ya, ya, that’s it.” We spoke for a while and later I saw Marlene in the other bar with a “walker” beside her. I said, “I understand you are having some trouble with your garden.” With a questioning look on her face, she asked me what I meant. “I was told you have a torn Hibiscus.” Marlene said, “Oh, I see you’ve been talking to George.”

Dave Nielsen

Are YOU in it?


The Face Inside After the wake, he sat in his black Jeep Wrangler in the parking lot. He watched as the hearse pulled onto Chestnut Street, followed by car after car after car. Gentle breezes swept through the maple trees. A big, lanky black cat meandered through the tall blades of sunscorched grass. A hummingbird fluttered by. And the baker of cheesecakes smiled. He knew what he ought to do, what was expected of him: join the procession and say his farewells to a man who had once been his best friend, just as he did when his parents died, when his favorite uncle passed away, and when his math teacher and his wife one night fell asleep at the steering wheel while driving along the New Jersey Turnpike. But not today. He had no desire to take that long, solitary, lonely ride to the cemetery. That’s not the way he wanted to remember his friend, being lowered into the ground, a life once brimming with potential and hope, now ended far too soon. So as the cars continued to pull out of the lot, the b a ke r re a c h e d in t o h i s g l ov e compartment, pulled out a tattered CD case, and opened it. Today, he would remember his friend not through a tearful, hollow graveside farewell, not through brunch with friends and family and strangers and acquaintances, not through the predictable or trite or expected, but through music. And not just any music, but his friend’s favorite music. His friend’s favorite band. Linkin Park. The baker slid the disc into the CD drive. He closed his eyes and listened as his friend’s favorite song “Papercut” began to play. Within seconds, the baker was screaming the lyrics, “Why does it feel like night today? Something in here’s not right today. Why am I so uptight today? Paranoia’s all I got left.” And as he rocked his head from side to side, and up and down, totally oblivious to the fact that members of the funeral procession were staring at him in bewilderment and disgust, memories of his friend, of the times they had spent together, their laughter, their tears, poured forth. The baker and his friend climbing the lighthouse in Barnegat, cramming for their SATs, smoking weed in the baker’s basement, riding the log flume at Great

Adventure, dancing shirtless, their chests riddled with sweat as The B52s sang “Rock Lobster.” He remembered dreaming of futures unseen, hopes yet imagined, as they drove along Route 95 on their way to Florida, his friend’s hand suddenly, gently touching the baker’s knee, up his thigh, inside his fly, exploring sensations and pleasures unknown, unleashing desires and needs long denied. The baker opened his eyes. He wanted to cry, he wanted to rage against his friend’s death, his friend’s stupidity. An overdose. How trite. How expected. How ordinary. Not like the man he knew and once loved. But instead, he put his Jeep into drive, and tore through the parking lot, gravel flying into the air, and out onto the streets of Mapleton, the town that bore witness to the baker’s life from childhood through adolescence to manhood. A small town in the hub of New Jersey, a hamlet just twenty-three miles from the shore. A bedroom community inhabited by all sorts: actors from Broadway and daytime television, doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, engineers, pedophiles, adulterers, liars, frauds, schemers, dreamers, and those who delighted in destroying dreams. And so, on that ordinary day, in his thirty-sixth year of life, the boy who grew up to be a baker of cheesecakes drove along the winding roads in what had once been his hometown. Years had passed since he had moved away, first to go to college, then to culinary school, and later to pursue his dreams and ambitions. During those years, the baker had established himself as a premier chef, opened his own café in a small suburb outside Philadelphia, made a beautiful home for himself, a loft, a sanctuary amid the decay and drugs and crime of Camden, and traipsed from bed to bed and from man to man. His parents had died, his dad to lung cancer, his mom to melanoma. Both of his brothers had moved away to begin new lives with their own families. The house the family had lived in for so many years, a modest sky-blue Cape Cod with the proverbial picket fence (albeit painted moss green), had been sold to another family, a family with their own children, their own troubles, their own heartaches, their own secrets. Over the years, the baker rarely gave thought to the town that had once been his home, to the house where he was raised. Or to the bedroom he had shared with his two older brothers. Or to the crawlspace where he hid whenever his parents argued, whenever his mother sought solace in bottles of vodka, whenever he wanted to look at

He knew what he ought to do, what was expected of him:


Mississippi Crow Magazine

skirt, and a young couple with two little boys. And the the male models in the JC Penney and Sears catalogues. baker of cheesecakes smiled. He rarely thought about the dusty, cobwebbed crawlspace He turned and walked back to the center hallway. where his cat M’Lynn had given birth to four kittens. Or to He opened a door and then looked up the stairway, into the large closet that his older brother had converted into a the loft, into what had been the bedroom he once shared bedroom, not unlike Greg Brady’s transformation of the with his brothers. Tentatively, cautiously, he walked up Brady’s attic into a groovy, hip bachelor pad. each step, the wood planks sagging beneath his weight. At Like so many other things and people and the top of the staircase, he looked to the right, to the closet incidents and times in his life, the baker had forgotten all his brother had converted into a bedroom. He smiled as a about his childhood home. He moved on with his life and memory surfaced: his then teenage brother frantically many of those memories faded with each passing day. That calling for help when the skin of his penis became snagged is, until his friend’s death, his friend’s wake. That is, until in his zipper. Brother’s girlfriend standing beside her man, he was driving through his old neighborhood, down his somewhat mortified, yet with a slight grin on her face, old street, a street where he once played hide and seek and wearing what had been their mother’s nightgown. dodgeball with friends, where he and his friends once As the memory faded, and as his smile stood anxiously on the street corner, waiting for the ice disappeared, the baker continued along his path, across the cream truck to come. And then he spotted it: what he had dark brown shag carpeting that his parents had installed once called home, for better, for worse, with a sign that over twenty years before. Past the now empty bookcases proclaimed “Open House” sitting in the middle of the front lawn. that had once housed favorite tomes: Frankenstein, Dracula, He couldn’t help himself. It had to be a good ten Salem’s Lot, Rosemary’s Baby. He walked beside the years since he had last stepped foot inside the house. So he crawlspace where his mother had stored Christmas pulled his Jeep in front of the house and put it into park. decorations and family albums and her bottles of vodka He pushed aside the old gate and then made his way to the and gin, across the spot where his middle brother had front door. He tapped on the door, practiced drumming, beside the area poked his head inside and said, These were the where his bed had sat for so many “Hello.” But there was no response. dreams that years. And then he spotted it: the The living room was stark, naked, door to what had been his closet. devoid of any furniture. No window haunted the baker Not the crawlspace that had treatments. No television. He slowly for most of his provided him with sanctuary from walked through the living room, insanity that was his family, or life, dreams that the across the hardwood floors, the very that had offered him the chance to same floors that his mother would would awaken him explore his sexual desires in privacy. wax each and every Saturday But a door to a closet that terrified in those middle morning. Into the center hallway. him for so many years, a door that He looked down at the heat vent of the night, his haunted his dreams, a door that he and remembered leaning against it body shaking, was convinced led straight to the in the early mornings, desperately bowels of Hell. trying to keep warm on cold winter quivering and Of course, the baker knew days. He peered into what had been more often than that his fears were irrational, that his the dining room, white shutters old closet didn’t actually lead to hiding the windows. Into what had not, covered in Hell, but that knowledge didn’t stop been his parents’ bedroom, a room sweat. his nightmares, not when he was a that for years had no more than a child, not when he was a teenager, bureau and two twin beds, a room that had been off limits not even today as an adult. Nor did that knowledge stop to the baker and his brothers. He stepped into the kitchen, him from imagining a heart beating steadily inside the the rose-colored linoleum creaking with his every step. The closet, the demon from within whispering old wooden cupboards were still painted white, and the incomprehensible, gutterish words, claws scratching at the walls were still a deep pumpkin, just as they were when his door, the door opening ever so slowly, deliberately, and the mother breathed her last breath. He leaned against the demon’s trembling arm, covered with festering sores and sink and peered out the window into the backyard. brusque, coarse fur extending from within to bring the Outside, under the now towering maple tree that his father baker to his true home. had planted as a seedling some thirty years before, stood a Continued on page 22 woman with towering blonde hair and a too-tight plum Are YOU in it?


The Quantum Paradox of Touching We've never truly touched nor can we, neither can either of us really touch ourselves nor anyone touch anybody. Electromagnetism binds but also keeps things apart. For skin upon skin is a intimate brushing of electron polarities, two negative fields which like incest engenders mutual repulsion. So when we caress there's always a nano, nano gap between us. And to bridge that millionth of a hairbreadth our defining boundaries must dissolve. But without these boundaries of mutual negativity we're an ill-defined hodgepodge of helter-skelter atoms. Thus "here, this is me" and "there, that is you" could be declared by neither of us. Yes, I truly desire to touch you and you, me, flesh on flesh with neither photon nor quark between us. But if we ever could shut tight that quantum gap, it would be as if we scraped skin against fire, blisters bursting on burnt flesh, our pus pooling into a single shapeless puddle.

Featured Poet

—Richard Fein

Where The Last Hippie Flew Once, before militant hijackers and fanatic kamikazes, and before security guards pierced all privacy with their strict searches, airports had a breezy freedom as cloud-bound planes went skyward, and you could fellow travel with passengers almost to takeoff, once back then I saw a girl dressed in hippie splendor, love beads, bangles, bells, and gossamer covered breasts, walking barefoot in the airport lobby. Nixon had just been elected for a second term; hippiedom was already passé, and so I beheld one of its last true believers. She smiled, held fingers in a V, and wished me peace. I wanted to talk to her about existential being and the state of the world. No! I wanted to kiss her on the lips, tongue to tongue, and tongue to everywhere else. But she already was wishing peace to the ticket clerk, baggage handler, and floor sweeper. Then she went past the gate. I followed her almost to the plane. Her bell-bottom jeans were teasing me with a hint of her butt cleavage as she went up the steps and boarded flight 718, not to Katmandu, Amsterdam, San Francisco, or Montego Bay, but to Cleveland. Cleavage to Cleveland! I groaned at my own bun pun. And for years I’ve wondered, Cleveland??! —Richard Fein 20

Mississippi Crow Magazine

Richard Fein

Entropy The universe is a lumpy thin curd stretched over a simmering cavernous force that today’s Einsteins call dark energy. This mysterious power pulls apart the cosmic taffy like a medieval rack. It’s a dead-end specter that is seventy-five percent of everything, or some kind of supreme repulsion, as if existence reviles itself. Galaxies, stars, planets, the ground I’m standing on, the earth beneath where my bones will lie, the very atoms themselves will all atomize eons from now. But even today this phantom force is with us, permeating our bodies like a rising wind through a screen door. All will unhinge, like Nero pulling wings off flies. All will end, like Eliot’s whining whimper. A dark cold silence, so desperately cold, like Robert Frost’s sufficing ice. No, there will be no grand reunion, no final big crunch, no recovery of lost or fractured parts, no heat of cosmic togetherness, but rather a parting, simply a parting, and a forever widening of empty. —Richard Fein

A Great Deal Late Afternoon on a Mall Parking Lot Stairway Lately I’ve been a bit breathless near the top. Now I must stop to regain my breathing rhythm. I measure how far up I’ve gone and how little there’s yet to go. At the bottom a toddler holds on to his mother’s arms as foot by foot he masters the art of step by step, laughing as he ascends. His mother and I exchange smiles. And I call down from above, “you’re getting to be a big boy,” not knowing if he’s old enough to understand. But I am. A few more steps and I’m beyond the banister with nothing to hold on to except the doorknob to the rooftop parking lot where I’ll start my car and exit.

The used book store also sold 1950s pinups, a Betty Page extravaganza. The store charged ten dollars a photo and up. Mild stuff, soft pore corn I called it. Betty and company were dressed in lingerie. Politically incorrect, but I didn’t care and neither did the old lady standing next to me, dressed not in black lingerie but in a threadbare coat, old shoes, and wearing no makeup. She looked intently, almost longingly, at Mistress Page spanking a gorgeous young miscreant draped over her knee. But the punished girl’s smile spoiled the effect. The old lady looked at me looking at her. She looked angry but with a hint of a smile. Her two smiles, a punished girl then an old woman punished by time. I took the photo from her hands, paid for it and handed it back to her in a plain brown envelope. A great deal, for ten bucks I got a kiss from a pinup girl.

—Richard Fein

—Richard Fein

Are YOU in it?


Continued from page 19

These were the dreams that haunted the baker for most of his life, dreams that would awaken him in the middle of the night, his body shaking, quivering, and more often than not, drenched in sweat. Dreams that terrified and repulsed him, yet in some strange way, dreams that comforted him, consoled him, and from time to time, even aroused him. Dreams that were the only constant in his life. The baker stared at the closet door. In his entire life, he was unable to remember any of his nocturnal stirrings, save the demon from Hell trying to reclaim his soul. That dream haunted him still, whether at home in his loft overlooking the Delaware River, whether on vacation on the Cape or the Rocky Mountains or the Keys, whether in the bed of a stranger, a momentary lover whose name he would never remember but whose body, whose every mole and crevice, whose smile, whose lips, whose every pleasure he could recall in exacting detail. And now with sunshine streaming through the windows in the room where his pet mouse Ping Pong froze to death one winter night, where hundreds of ants one time crawled out of a window shade, where he once kissed, caressed, and explored the body of his now dead friend, the baker was tempted to walk over to the closet door, grasp its iron handle, and open the door, proving to himself, once and for all, that his nightmares meant nothing. But he didn’t. He decided not to, not today, not ever. For better or for worse, those nightmares were his and his alone. They were his last link, his last connection to days gone by, people now gone from his life: brothers who no longer acknowledged his existence, parents now dead, pets long gone and forgotten, friends who had grown up and moved on, and a lover now being encased for eternity in a box deep beneath the earth. The baker of cheesecakes looked at his closet door one last time. He closed his eyes and breathed, the scent of his cat M’Lynn’s urine still lingering so many years later. Or had the others who had lived in this house also had cats? Who cared? It didn’t matter. He opened his eyes and smiled once more. He knew he would never again return to this house, never again return to the place that caused him so much pain yet so much joy and happiness. He looked around the room one final time, at the hideous orange and white wallpaper that his dad had hung so proudly so many years earlier, at the window, once broken by his eldest brother in a fit of rage, at the popcorn ceiling once painted purple during one of his mother’s drunken hazes. He began walking toward the stairwell, humming the very same song that he had sung earlier to remember his friend. He walked down the stairs, through the living 22

room, and outside. A strong breeze rustled the leaves of the two maple trees standing side by side in the front yard. Across the street, a large, fat cat, the color of ginger, sprinted through the front yard, chased by a blue jay. For one brief, quick second, the baker thought he heard nails scrapping against wood, a heartbeat pounding. And the baker of cheesecakes smiled.

Robb Sewell I Hear You Ma, Ma can you hear me? Why can’t you hear me? Where am I? What has happened? Stop, think, noise, metal, pain, pain. Voices, where are they? More noises, people all over. Wait, can’t remember. Ma, Ma why can’t you hear me? Listen to me Ma, Dad Maybe if the machine would stop making noise Or maybe if I could move my feet. What are you looking at? What’s wrong? I have to move my feet or toes, something has to move. Don’t act like I’m not here. I can hear you. You can talk to me. I’m still here, don’t whisper. Have to let them know Oh, pain, pain, move finger, toe something has to move. Oh, pain, pain, its okay I will be okay Just talk to me. I hear you. Pain, pain, move finger toe Oh pain, pain. Look, moving fingers Ma don’t cry. I see you and hear you Everything is going to be alright. —Nancy Nieken from Poems to Cuddle With Mississippi Crow Magazine

Sinister Age of the Draft Each kid found himself victim to one of the many human abuses of dumping a child out of the back of a stationwagon into the snot-filled clutches of a pack of anonymous kids. It was an enforced group dynamics that came with all its paranoids, masochists, and victims for no other reason then that they have turned the same sinister age of the draft, and as it was a Catholic school in the early sixties, abuse was not only condoned, but expected at any and all levels. The teacher was a myopic, old woman with a pink barrette and brown teeth who spent a large portion of her day trying to figure out what her pension would be if she quit that afternoon, punching numbers into an adding machine, picking it up and sneering at it as reality spread bitterness over her face, while the children were left to themselves—a sort of Lord of the Flies meets Mickey Mouse— in which the forces of evil press in on the good like white bread on peanut butter. The so-called good, a weak but whiny lot who actually clung to that abstract of “justice for all” would tattle to Mrs. Pufry…”Mzz Puffy, she hit me...Mzz Puffy, he said the bad word...Mzz Puffy, I gotta go....Mzz Puffy, Thomas is hanging in the cloakroom again...” and Mrs. Pufry’s hand would absently lash out at the sniveling chorus and shoo them back to their seats without looking up, including the one who had to go, who was now shamed into retreat with the rest of them, finding out early in life that time was never to be on his side as he fought a losing battle with the vicious stream that laughed its way down his pant legs. After lunch and regulated nap, Mrs. Pufry would suddenly lurch up out of her chair and stumble toward the supply cabinets, like some hideous, reanimated corpse, and hurl herself around the room, throwing out instructions, crayons, construction paper, and panic, forcing an art deadline on all of them. The class experienced their first creative block, staring at the paper, a pile of broken crayons, the clock that rushed around in a circle none of them could decipher, and Mrs. Pufry, now looming over them, pacing the aisles, staring down at the feeble slashes and stick men with disgust, cuffing a few heads, yelling, “Hurry up, fill that page, nobody asked for Picasso.” When the final bell finally rang at three o’clock and the parents lined up outside for their wards, each shaky child clutched a lopsided monkey, tortured landscapes, family portraits with a member or two missing, heads without bodies, bodies without heads, in what could have been a fair rendition of the birth, or at the very least, the first mass movement toward minimalism. School was a daily workshop in human dynamics.

Woebegone Polygon Triangles’ suffering is acute. Their angles do not beckon in pursuit – their sharp excruciating edges too reliably wedge wedges into intimacy: try being nice and they will slice. It’s never bliss to kiss: ow! Nobody knows how. —Poem and art by Guy Kettelhack

—Meg Tuite Are YOU in it?


What’s Unexpected in Midlife? A Second, Unpaid Job A friend recently asked me what is the funniest, most surprising or unexpected thing about being midlife. “Midlife????!!!” I responded. “Who says I’m midlife?” A fellow writer, a friendly Texan, who was creating an online community for women of the midlife variety, was looking for an entertaining, preferably humorous, but brief quotation about midlife to post alongside my picture on her website, but my mind went blank. Then it went in a million directions. I had yet to find anything funny about being middle-aged. In fact, I was taking it pretty seriously now that I was waiting for menopause to begin and work life to end. When it came to my personal life, I’d always made a few assumptions. I expected my mother’s mannerisms and maxims to creep into my life, for my vision to change, for the aches to arrive, for the sagging and bagging of skin and body parts. And when my face plumped, then subsequently fell, I wasn’t surprised as much as disappointed. My hair colour is also a disappointment. It isn’t turning grey fast enough and still needs expensive monthly sessions of tinfoil and chemicals to add blond highlights. Without a humorous view of midlife, or interesting observations to offer, I emailed a benign response and continued to think about the question. ::::: | ::: | ::: | ::::: What I hadn’t said to my writerly friend was the continued displeasure in my professional life was indeed unexpected, surprising, and comical only in the unreasonable length of time it was taking for me to make a career change. When it came to my professional life, I expected to have some sort of commercial success by midlife. Sure, I’d moved up the corporate ladder one or two steps early on, when I switched from managerial and administrative work to writing magazine and newspaper articles, victory was at a standstill. I spent my 30s and early 40s trying to learn the art and craft of creative and professional writing only to end up earning a living as a technical writer. I’d given up one corporate career for an equally unsatisfying one. Don’t get me wrong. I understood the concept of “paying dues” even as I came to this new profession later in life. This wasn’t just aspiration, or a creative outlet. This 24

was a strategic career move, but it was one that seemed to be taking a long time. It had taken me more than a decade to come out of the creative writer’s closet, and when I did, I came out swinging. I took writing courses and attended seminars; I hired editors for feedback on poems, articles, and short stories. I joined mentorship programs. I wrote a couple of screenplays. I was still finding my way (while collecting college credits), but began publishing my work. I published poetry in micro-press publications, I self-published a book, I snagged a cover story for a national arts magazine; I collected print and online publication credits. I wrote weeknights, weekends, and during holidays. I wrote in the free time between corporate writing contracts. I paid close attention to my personal creative writing projects and tried my hand at freelance writing gigs. My parents taught me that hard work pays off, but, as I wrote to the exclusion of almost everything else in my life, I was still waiting. Do what you love and the money will come. I became weary from waiting. Where the hell was my big break?!! Failure at 25 is simply a concept; at 35 it keeps you running for the prize because you understand that failure is possible (if not imminent). But failure at 45 is demoralizing. In pondering a better answer to my writerly friend’s midlife question, I came to terms with my side career and began to accept that my creative writing projects would remain in the margins of my life. Something unexpected happened. The consistent pain in my hip and lower back resulting from the car accident months earlier, according to x-rays, had jolted my hip into revealing its osteo-arthritis. The prognosis? A walking cane and lifetime supply of Advil. With the possibility of living with debilitating, chronic pain, compounded by hours at a desk doing work I don’t enjoy, I decided that there was value in having my second, part-time job, in having worked at unpaid blogging and contributing to low-paying regional publications, in giving away articles to community newspapers. There was value, too, in having shared my fiction and poetry in the warm and welcoming confines of the writing community. While I now understand that it is possible I may never make the jump to full-time writer, it is still incredibly satisfying and as it turns out, it is difficult to give up. And that’s one thing I hadn’t expected.

—Valerie Poulin

Article was originally published at

Mississippi Crow Magazine

...Hatred hath lain within my veins, simmering until days light extinguished into the hills, leaving a fiery glow, and then darken, cold like you. I stood there and waited, like a statue, carved and worn within its crevasses, until my nightmare appeared in the distance. You were always the one with dramatic entrances, feeling the need to look opposing and haughty, but I knew thee better. I didn’t fear thee, nor cringed at thy sight; instead I stood my ground and as I waited the wind did blow your black hair. Like tentacles, they streamed out from your head, reaching, finding me, but lost. Eyes closed, I remembered thee well, when you were not as you are now. I still can feel you, your touch, such warmth that crept into the depths of my soul and haply took thee as mine. Fool I was then, to believe in such frivolous ideals, but then you took me and I was yours…body and soul. I hate thee as I hate myself. For nightly, I wept at my loss and wish for days when I could laugh and be who I truly was. Untainted with a heart that leapt for the pure excitement that life hath given me, but you in your changed ways were Are YOU in it?

selfish and took what was me with you and threw them away, never to be seen again. Give me the strength dear God to take away from you what you took from me, and then let me be whole…I sense your closeness. Eyes opened, and there you are, as I remember, yet, not. You are not the same, the warmth of you hath bled, as if an opened wound, left unaided, festered and came unclean. I want to be moved, I pray that you move me as you did once before, in a time where we pledged our love for all eternity…please my eyes spoke. Yours moved not, but took me down with one fell swoop. In the distance there, you are…with my blood on your hands. I am free from my pain. Birthright by Sue Mydliak (expected publication date, late 2010 or early 2011) takes place in Utica, Illinois, a farming town and right next door to Starved Rock State Park, a well-known tourist attraction. It is a paranormal romance between a young woman, Candra Rosewood, whose past is unique and a man, Kane Woods, whose heart has not beaten since 1817. He finds favor with Candra and chooses her to become his human servant, but with this change, many obstacles stand in their way and even if won, there is death still waiting if the wrong move is made. This is Sue Mydliak’s first novel and a sequel is to follow. She is a published artist, illustrator as well as author, with many of her short stories and poems published. You can see her work on her website,


ADVENTURES ON THE 854 Jess Smith With all the interesting things that have been happening on the 854, I figured I'd start an ongoing note (in Facebook) that highlights those happenings. For those of you not up on the lingo, the 854 is the express bus route that I take from Blaine to downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota every day to my job. *** 3/9/09 AM: First day on the bus. Realize that the bus driver is also having her first day. 3/11/09 AM: Rookie bus driver takes two turns in the wrong direction. Both times, she is corrected by the passengers, turns the lights off in the bus and backs up and makes the correct turn. 3/13/09 AM: Rookie bus driver wishes me a happy Friday. I tell her that I'm glad I made it through week one of the new job. Conversation about new job with bus driver and crochet lady. They ask how I like riding the bus. I say, so far, so good...I like not thinking a whole lot and dealing with yahoos on the commute anymore. Rookie bus driver makes only one wrong turn today. 3/16/09 AM: Crochet lady makes St. Patty's Day-themed washcloths. Hands a finished one to blond, curly-haired girl that she converses with daily. She's appreciative. 3/23/09 PM: As I'm getting onto the bus home, realize there is a wrapped, unused red condom on the bottom step. Classy. 3/25/09 AM: Crochet lady is identified as Holly, who is not on the bus today. Since I'm now the first one on the bus, have a conversation that Crotchetier Holly is usually having with rookie bus driver. Find out that rookie bus driver is from Wisconsin originally. Conversation causes rookie bus driver to almost miss first turn into North Blaine neighborhood. 3/26/09 AM: Watch my dog (who's caught on to my routine) look out front window through blinds at me standing at bus stop. Crochet Holly isn't on the bus again this AM. Rookie bus driver identifies herself as Bonnie. 26

3/27/09 AM: Wow. Eventful morning on the 854. Kindacute Tony gets on with his son. Rookie Bonnie is distracted while chatting with the two of them, completely misses the turn into North Blaine neighborhood. Misses three bus stop points. Continues on wrong road and comes up to where she would have come out in the first place. Sees black coat lady down about a block, and beeps. Black coat lady slow-jogs to meet the bus. Rookie Bonnie blames the distraction (jokingly) on Kinda-cute Tony. 3/27/09 PM: See dead, male wild turkey on the side of the road in front of Fridley Sports Arena (University between Mississippi and Osbourne). Contemplate where it could have come from, as there are no real 'wild' areas in that region. Passenger gets off bus at that stop and stands over turkey, probably wondering same thing. 3/30/09 AM: Bus has a case of the Mondays. Substitute bus driver drives in place of Rookie Bonnie. Doesn't miss a turn. Someone farts on the bus as we enter downtown. People who fart on the bus (especially so close to the end of the route) should be tarred, feathered and then shot. 4/3/09 AM: Friday Free-Rides. The do-hickey thing that took money was broken so Rookie Bonnie gave free rides to everyone. Made for some happy people on the 854. 4/9/09 AM: Rookie Bonnie is sailing down University Ave. at about 50 MPH and proceeds to almost blow off the 63rd Ave stop where five people are standing. Realizing she's missing the stop (TOO late), she slams on the brakes and stops about a block past where the bus stop was. In the process, the engine kills, Rookie Bonnie gets on the mic and says, 'Everyone okay back there?' As the five passengers make the trek down to the 'new' stop, Rookie Bonnie tries to get the engine started. To the content of all passengers on the bus, after the 6th try, it turns over. 4/13/09 AM: Rookie Bonnie is on vacation this week. Crotchetier Holly was back on the bus after a few days out sick, greeted me with a wide smile and 'Good Morning' as I got on. (When the regulars start to greet you, you're officially a regular.) The Three Amigos (Crotchetier Holly, Kinda-Cute Tony and Holly's Nice Guy Escort - don't know name yet) were punchy today and I giggled a couple Mississippi Crow Magazine

times to myself at their banter. Happy Monday... 4/20/09 AM: Rookie Bonnie's back. Vibe on the bus goes back to 'normal' again. We all welcome her back with open arms, as it's clearly not the same without her. She encounters the University Avenue construction (that started when she was gone) and gets a bit panicked, because she has to stop in the middle of the only lane of traffic to pick up patrons. Giggle a few times at her overreaction when she has to do this. 4/21/09 AM: Sierra (my dog) now realizes that the big box (bus) comes from the East, and therefore runs back and forth between the patio door (where she can see it approach) to the front window (where she can see it pick me up). Smart cookie. 4/22/09 AM: Rookie Bonnie slams on her brakes at Hennepin and causes a few things to become airborne. She gets on the mic, smiling, saying, "Is everyone okay? Sorry about that..." Nice Guy Escort is not on the bus today, so Kinda-Cute Tony escorts Crotchetier Holly off the bus and to work. 4/28/09 AM: Rookie Bonnie was 2 minutes late (and extremely flustered). Crotchetier Holly did not show up, and Bonnie got distracted because of that. Curly-haired girl is back on the bus after a week of vacation. She tells Rookie Bonnie she doesn't have pictures yet but will tomorrow. 4/29/09 AM: Found out a lot today. Fairly eventful: Crotchetier Holly was not on the bus today. When I mentioned that, Rookie Bonnie corrected me that it was Polly (with a P), not Holly. Moved to the front of the bus (I usually sit in the middle) and talked more with Bonnie. Asked her if she did any other routes. She apparently does the 781A (Maple Grove Transit) in the evening. Bonnie's 'shift' on the 854 ends in four weeks. They have 12-week rotations and at that time she is assigned to another route. They can select what they'd prefer, but they don't necessarily always get it. For her next stint, she's going to request the 854 (AM). Curly-haired girl is identified as Mada (May-duh) today. She sits next to Kinda-Cute Tony and in front of me. Curly-haired Mada shows me a picture of her new nephew, a real cutie. Curly-haired Mada goes to show Rookie Bonnie the nephew picture and on her way back, stumbles into Kinda-Cute Tony's lap. I joke that the bus just lost it's G-rating. Regulars laugh.

Are YOU in it?

5/1/09 AM: Crotchetier Polly's still out - hasn't been on all week. Bonnie made me sit in the first seat so that we could talk. She was especially sad today as she found out that she's going to a new route in 4 weeks - the 781 in the AM and the 783 in the PM. Found out that Nice Guy Escort's name is Jonathan. 5/1/09 PM: Kinda-cute Tony spots me on the bus and sits next to me for the ride home. 5/4/09 AM: Rookie Bonnie is not on the bus this AM instead we have The Burly "Fish" (as noted by his name on his lunch bag next to him). Burly Fish is quite the kamikaze driver. Almost takes a left onto Central South (until he is corrected by another passenger). But it gets better...Burly Fish takes 7th Street instead of 4th Street (into downtown). Nice Guy Escort Jonathan tells Burly Fish that he's going the wrong way. Burly Fish swears under his breath (all I hear is dammit) and takes us on the 'scenic route' right past the new ballpark. Arrive 25 minutes later than usual to work. 5/4/09 PM: Pass an accident on University where a car hits a street sweeper. (How exactly does one do that?) Arrive at Northtown. Bus dies. No power, nothing. Bus driver gets on intercom and tells us just that and that a replacement bus is on the way. Kinda-Cute Tony walks to the back of the bus to talk to me and after about 15 minutes with no A/C, we get off the bus and wait outside. Notice extremely large puddle of hydraulic fluid underneath bus, spewing out. 50 minutes after the breakdown, the replacement bus (and the next 854C right behind it) arrives at Northtown and we are again on our way. Thank God for a beautiful day. 5/11/09 PM: Take a later bus out of downtown. Not an articulated bus and MUCH emptier. Bus driver is hilarious. I've named him The Whistler because he randomly breaks out into whistling song. Kinda-Cute Tony gets on the bus with his kid later in the route - shouts back, asking why I'm on a later bus. 5/13/09 AM: Rookie Bonnie and I continue to become close. Crotchetier Polly still out with pneumonia, so I'm the first one on the bus each morning. Sit in the first seat and chat with Bonnie all the way into work.


5/13/09 PM: Continue to take a later bus out of downtown. A passenger at an intersection, clearly marked as 'Buses Do Not Stop Here', flags down The Whistler. The Whistler puts the bus in park, opens his door and gets out to show the passenger the obnoxious, clear sign. Gets back on the bus, with the passenger, continuing to give him crap, which causes several of us on the bus to laugh. Curly-haired Mada gets on the bus and sits near me. We chat until the bus exits downtown. 5/14/09 AM: Rookie Bonnie stops especially for a woman and her lab mix named Blue who's walking on the route. Blue walks up the stairs and gets a dog treat from Bonnie and greats me as well. Nice Guy Escort Jonathan is back on the bus post-surgery. Find out that he's getting married (figures...) on Sunday. 854 regulars are not invited. 5/21/09 AM: Nice Guy Escort Jonathan says his final goodbye to Bonnie, as her last week is next week and he is on vacation. 5/26/09 AM: Crotchetier Polly is back on the bus, after being out for a few weeks with pneumonia and complications from COPD. It's nice to see her smiling face back on the bus. Full bus today, considering it's a holiday week. A car tries to take out Short-Timer Bonnie towards the end of the route and she gives her some horn action. 5/26/09 PM: Pass 2 pre-teen girls dancing provocatively in a front yard purposefully for the bus riders. KC Tony turns around and we exchange glances, while I mouth 'Wow.' 5/28/09 AM: Working from home today. Walk Sierra down to the first bus stop (3 blocks down) and greet Bonnie and Polly. Bonnie gives us both a ride back to my stop. Sierra enjoys the ride. 5/29/09 AM: Bonnie’s last drive South on the 854. She's moving to the 'dark side' - the 781 and 783 routes in Maple Grove. Several regulars wish her well as they get off the bus - she's made quite the impact, including a letter written in by someone recognizing her. Tony threatens a knuckle sandwich to me after not riding yesterday. 5/29/09 PM: Realize that 'The Whistler' must have been a sub, because another driver - I'll call him 'Transmission Killer' or TK for short - has been driving the 4:52 departing 28

bus. Heading North on University, TK weaves in and out of the lane, trying to decide if taking the construction zone blocked lane (which is clear) is better than staying in the lane of traffic. In the meantime, TK guns and brakes, guns and brakes, guns and brakes...well, you get the picture. Towards the end of the route, and realizing that there are only two people left on the bus that get off at the same stop, TK turns around and asks if he can take the shortcut to our stop. We, of course, say yes. 6/1/09 AM: Bonnie's first day not on the AM 854. Very different feeling. No Crotchetier Polly on today. The Charter School boys are again extremely late to the stop, but the new bus driver allows them on. New bus driver also misses rider that's on the other side of the lights at 91st (not his fault - he's running on time). Nice Guy Escort Jonathan is back on the bus today. Not sure I can deal with Kinda-Cute Tony everyday without Bonnie aboard (I'm going to start calling him Kinda-Annoying Tony). Got a short nap in before hitting the downtown stretch. 6/2/09 AM: Second bus driver in two days. We'll call him Spunky Brewster. He gets to the Charter School Boy stop and all 5 kids are sprinting for the stop. One is lagging very far behind. Spunky Brewster closes the door, even though the other guys keep telling him that there's one more. Spunky answers, "It will give him motivation." I laugh out loud. Spunky almost misses 105th, slams on his brakes and says, "Just trying to keep you guys awake back there." 6/3/09 AM: Third bus driver in three days. Find out from Bonnie (we're staying connected on Facebook) that there is no permanent driver for our route. Until one is found, we're going to be on sub duty. Today's substitute of choice I'll call him 'Sexual Chocolate' because he was dark and delicious with glasses - was almost 10 minutes late. In transit world - that's insane. Sexual Chocolate speeds through the first few turns and gets to the Charter School Boy stop. The boys are there (not running to the stop, as usual), but unfortunately, the machine isn't printing out transfers. SC freaks out, trying to get it to work, making us more behind in the process. Eventually, he gives up and the Charter School Boys head to the back the bus. All the regulars get on the bus in the same fashion - talking about how late he is. 6/3/09 PM: Mom of 5 Teri sits with me on the way home. Mada waves back at both of us when she gets off the bus. The Whistler is driving the 854C 2nd Trip North...he cracks me up. Find out that he doesn't have an afternoon permanent route - he's a floater sub.

Mississippi Crow Magazine

6/15/09 PM: Take the earliest C out of down because of a throbbing headache. Bonnie passes me while I'm waiting at the stop on the 781, opens her door and we chat for about 10 seconds. I miss her. 6/17/09 AM: 6:51 departing 854 continues to have rotating morning drivers. Seats are exceptionally slippery this AM, causing multiple people to almost fall off their seats. Light at 105th and University seems to be broken - we sit in a line of cars for 5-7 minutes, waiting for the light to change. Mada puts her makeup on while on the bus this morning, announcing beforehand that she is doing so. Regulars laugh. Bus is beyond packed today, standing room only up to the front of the bus. Passenger sitting next to Polly gets off at the last possible stop before heading on the express portion to downtown because of claustrophobia. Arrive 15 minutes late to work. 7/13/09 PM: Bonnie drives past on the 9th trip of the 781. Wave. Talk with the Nice Older Lady that gets on the 4:22 departing 854C as we're waiting for the bus. Take the last seat in the back on the right side. Sleep the entire way, waking twice when I realize I'm snoring. 7/20/09 AM: Kinda-annoying Tony announces that he's off the rest of the week. He also breaks the news to the regulars that his last week on the bus will be the week of the 27th as he's moving to an apartment in Vadnais Heights the following weekend. I proceed to do a happy dance to myself. 7/22/09 AM: Waiting at bus stop, 854 drives up and almost drives past me, until I wave my arms frantically. Slams on his brakes and I walk to the stopped bus. Driver apologizes profusely and admits that he was sightseeing on the OTHER side of the road as he drove past me. 7/29/09 AM: My last ride with Annoying-Tony on the bus, as he's moving this weekend. Silently celebrate. 8/4/09 AM: First ride on the 6:50AM 854 route without Annoying-Tony. Again, silently celebrate. 8/19/09 PM: Jackhole has the entire block to wait for the bus and decides instead to stand about a foot and a half in front of me. Apparently, this guy does not know the definition of personal space.

Are YOU in it?

8/20/09 PM: My friend Jodi from Chi-town is in for the weekend. She takes the light rail up from the airport and gets to ride on the 854 home with me. Wave to Bonnie (she doesn't see me) as she drives past the 5th Street stop. Brake-Happy Dood is especially brake-happy today and runs a pink (almost red) light at light speed. With an articulated bus, it's not the smoothest ride when he does that. 8/21/09 AM: Park close to downtown because I'm leaving early today. Hop on the 260 for the short ride. Who's on? Kinda-annoying Tony. Oy. I don't make eye contact, but KNOW he's watching me in the back of the bus.

8/21/09 PM: Took the 10 to get back to the ramp just North of downtown. Was called 'big booty mama' by a passenger. Just how does one react to that? I got into the car in the ramp and laughed my butt off. 9/1/09 AM: Riding along 4th Street. See a squirrel. Try to determine A) where this squirrel would possibly live, eat, etc. and B) how this squirrel has not yet managed to be squashed by a vehicle. Kudos to the squirrel 9/1/09 PM: Take the late, late 854 home after a long day of work. May be the worst use of brakes that I've EVER seen in a bus driver. Impossible to sleep because constantly getting whiplash. Completely annoyed. 9/11/09 AM: Bus is 16 minutes late. As Captain Personality drives through the North Blaine neighborhood, he comes to one of the intersections and makes the wrong decision. The guy in front of me (one of only 3 of us on the bus so far) shakes his head and just sighs. I pipe up, "at the stop sign, if you turn right you'll get back to the bus route." No grunt, no eye contact, no thanks, no acknowledgement of any kind. We get to Northtown, still about 15 minutes behind, where there are at least 2 dozen people waiting to get on the bus. It's the biggest crowd I've ever seen there. At least half of the group is annoyed as they get on, and the driver does not greet a single one of them. Tattoo-face guy gets on at 63rd and a dialogue (if you could call it that) happens with tattoo-face guy. Apparently, he doesn't have enough to ride the Express ($3 vs. $2.25) to get downtown. TFG gets off in a huff at the next stop. TGIF. 9/14/09 AM: Ride the 5:58 departing 854. Why, do you ask, would I get up that God-awful early? Bonnie's back on the 854! She chose the early route. So that she could refamiliarize herself with the 854 route, I rode with her the 29

first day to give her a bit of guidance. People are VERY quiet on that early of a bus. Didn't stop the two of us from chatting. Bonnie announces as we're getting onto 94 that she's the new driver for that route for the next 13 weeks. 9/15/09 AM: Ride the early-early bus again with Bonnie. She's got the route down pat. 9/25/09 AM: Take the 5:58 departing 854 again. Happy Friday! Bonnie is VERY happy to see me, as she has had a less than stellar week. Mada is also on the early-early bus and is so sleepy that she almost doesn't recognize Bonnie as driving. Once she does, she's just as excited as Bonnie is. Catching up is done. Mada sleeps for the 'express' portion of the ride as Bonnie and I yackyackyack away. 9/25/09 PM: Encounter obnoxious dancing lady at the corner of 5th Street and Hennepin. Lady is definitely marching to the beat of her own drum. Not even sure if she was listening to an iPod. Regardless, Teri and I get a good chuckle. 10/9/09 PM: The one FREAKIN' day that I need to catch the early 854C to get home to meet someone for dinner? The day that the early 854C doesn't show up. Miffed, I wait another half-hour for the next one, and call my friend to apologize profusely, letting her know I'm gonna be a halfhour late at least. Zombie stares at passengers on the 4F. 10/10/09 PM: (Yes, I realize this date is a Saturday. And yes, it's not technically an 854 story, but it IS a bus story.) Participate in the Minneapolis Zombie Pub Crawl with thousands of others. Get together at coworker Barry's in North Mpls and take the 4F into downtown to start festivities. Have a fun time heckling riders on the 4F while donning our bloody costumes. Best quote from a passenger, as he's casually talking on the phone to a friend while we walk to the back of the bus, "A bunch of zombies just got on the bus." 12/18/09 PM: Driver re-assignment time - new route picks happened and began this past Monday. The early 854C home has a new driver. I'll call her SS for Savvy Shoulderist, because she can handle the long bus like nobody's business. (Bonnie: Her number is 7628.) Anyway, this is the first bus driver that goes through an actual 30

spoken routine before hitting the highway portion of the ride: "This is the 854C (Charlie) bus, Paul Parkway route. It takes the Interstate 94 route to 694 to University to Northtown. From there, we take the Paul Parkway leg. If this is not your bus, please ring the bell now." 1/25/10 PM: Early 854C home has a sub. Almost misses a turn in the neighborhood that all bus subs and new drivers get lost in. Turns off all the lights and backs the articulated bus up. I chuckle to myself. 1/26/10 AM: Crank bagpipes on iPod. Get a few stares. I don't care. Everyone needs a little AC/DC in the morning. Also, see a guy reading a book called 'Uncle Johns Big Bathroom Stories Book' on the bus. Seriously? Is that even appropriate? 2/2/10 PM: Take the 270C to the Central/University ramp. Who gets on the bus? Kinda-annoying Tony. Luckily, I keep a low profile and he doesn't see or recognize me before I get off the bus. Happy day. 2/5/10 AM: Interesting new rider this morning. Pass him as I'm getting on the bus, sit two seats behind him. After a couple stops pass by, Jackhole decides to use the emergency exit window release as his leverage on staying in his seat for turns. Um, yeah...get your freakin' hand off the emergency exit. If you feel like yer gonna fall off the seat into the aisle, then move in. Further down the road, he puts his legs up on the seat across the aisle from him. When we get to Northtown, he's actually ANNOYED when people want to pass him to take empty seats behind us. After Northtown, he opens a large bag of chips (Old Dutch, I believe) and proceeds to chomp loudly on them for the rest of the ride. 2/9/10 AM: Welcomed back the regular 854 driver this AM. Yesterday's kamikaze sub is putting the fear into riders hearts on another route this morning. 2/19/10 AM: Kamikaze emergency window release dude is on the 854 again this morning. Should be an interesting ride... 3/2/10 AM: Was I riding the 10 today? Nope, the regular 854 Southbound...but it sure felt like it for awhile. While sitting in the back of the articulated bus, I felt a poke on my shoulder. I turned around and the guy behind me said, "You smell really good." I politely said thank you, and he proceeded to ask me what it could be. My shampoo? My conditioner? Or just me? I smiled and turned back around. He then went into a discussion (with me, but it was more like just with himself) about how he forgot his bus pass this Mississippi Crow Magazine

morning and had only 2 dollars on him and was a dollar short for the fare and the nice lady up front helped him he won't have his money for Taco Bell for lunch today...yesterday he had a Whopper Jr. at BK, ever have one of those? Sheeeeit, they're good...Wanna see my baby girl? (Flips open his phone) She was born on February 12th...I work at Greyhound. I load luggage and shit. Since I wasn't giving him a lot of mutual conversation, he then asked the back of the bus, in general, 'Ya'll goin' to work'? Hennepin Avenue can't come soon enough. He asks us all to have a good day and even shakes the hand of the lady in front of me. 'You goin' to work? I work at Greyhound.' ...Sheeeeeit. 3/9/10 AM: I'm lucky enough to share this morning's 854 with Emergency Exit Kamikaze Guy. No idiotic movements...yet. 4/28/10 AM: "You sure smell good" just got on the bus. He's a few rows up, so I'm safe. 5/5/10 AM: Notice that bus turns off at the stop before me, a couple blocks down. Don't think anything more about it until the bus kills at the stop sign after I get on. And again at a stop where a passenger with a bike gets on only a few blocks further. At this point, several of us passengers look around at each other and wonder what the deal is. Bus runs smoothly until we get just past 94th circle and pick up a passenger. At this point, the bus kills, and the driver gets it started, but can't get it moving. The back door light is on, and a passenger gets up to open the door so that it will close again, hoping it will 'unstick' the bus. Frantic driver continues to press buttons, turning on and off the lights, opening the front door, etc. Eventually, after about 3-4 minutes, he gets the bus moving. New driver? Shitty bus? All of the above? We'll never know...

to get off just North of downtown. The rest of these people are going to the 'burbs. I approach my stop and ring the bell. I'm close enough to the back door that when we stop, I yell up to the driver, "I'll come up to the front to pay once I'm outside." I pull my badge using the retractable cord and pay my fare. About a 1/2 block away, the bus approaches me from behind and beeps at me. Someone tells me out the window. Apparently, I dropped my badge when I paid, and a gentleman picked it up. Sure enough, I look behind me, and there's a guy walking towards me, with my badge that had broken off my retractable cord. I thank him profusely. How embarrassing. 6/7/10 AM: 854 regular Polly made rhubarb cake (still warm!) for the North end 854 patrons this morning. The bus driver proposed to her. I love my route. 6/9/10 AM: Apparently everyone stayed in bed on this very rainy day. Empty articulated 854. 6/16/10 PM: The Whistler is subbing all week on the 4:52 departing 854C. He's always fun to talk to. 6/18/10 PM: Take the early 854C home so that I can get on the road to WI early. Get derailed talking to Pete outside after arriving home on the bus - long enough to have the following 854C go past the house. The Whistler proceeds to beep at me as he drives past. Jessica Smith works as a Senior Data Analyst at Capella University in downtown Minneapolis. Being new to public transit, she started her 'Adventures On The 854' to chronicle the various happenings on her bus ride from the suburbs to downtown and back each day.

5/28/10 PM: Had the smart idea of leaving work in the early afternoon on the Friday before Memorial Day. So did everyone else. Caught the 250 so that I could avoid the 10 or 25 local busses to go to my parking ramp across the river. Got to the bus stop and was about the 26th person in line waiting for the bus. As the bus arrives, a short one not an articulated, we notice that there are only about 6 empty seats. Time to stand. Too bad there are 3-4 more stops before getting out of downtown. All of us are packed in, standing, like sardines. And I'm thinking - crap, I have Are YOU in it?


The Nipper


My share was gone. I'd been a fool Drinkin' white rum an' playin' cards Then it came early light At the Shark's Tooth Bar. I was broke. I signed articles with Cap'n Harden Kruul.

There are countries of the spirit, Where the villages are lit by torches And the bears weigh 700 pounds. The clocks are sad And strike the wrong hours While park benches are as empty as the sky. The tyrannical government Lies about the weather, Lies about the sun, moon, stars, Sex and the mists off the river. The streets are named Liberation Avenue, Redemption Boulevard, and Square of The Sixteenth of January. This is the world we ran to from the world While storms of cursing exiles fled the other way And a father loomed above us all --Loomed like a mountain range. A Carpathian father ready to drink the blood of humans. Seeking counsel I ask, “Can my father really Be mastered through The interpretation of dreams?” The therapist replies, “According to Cornell Medical School’s Malaise Inventory, someone who is disturbed May also have a genuine complaint.” The doctor has a pleasant if inexpressive face And a disarming manner. You can see A fine lucid intelligence in his eyes “You must be very confused,” the doctor says. You nod. “How lonely it must be having your condition. How baffling and troublesome and unfair.” You bow your head silently in acknowledgment. Like most educated people, You are conversant with the basic Tenets of the therapeutic relationship, Issues of transference and counter-transference And so forth, So you do not wish to acknowledge The fact that you wish with all your heart To embrace the man, to clamber up The cliffs of his soaring Carpathian lap, And remain there Until you are healed.

"Fallin' tide, boy...time ta sail!" he said to me I slipped his longboat's oars an' rowed him out to his blackhulled ship--Eternity. Forty guns and 60 men Lifetakers every one "Ye can sling yer hammock under the muzzle of the sixth port gun." First we surprised a Boston pink Took her goods n'marooned her men. Flamed her holds an' watched her sink. We landed one dawn near a plantation lawn On an island off Carolina. We burned the house an' the people hid In a forest of ocean pines. We chased a Portugee trader Across them southern seas, Ran her aground an' sacked her On a beach off Daufuskie. Next we was spoke by a fightin' ship. We left her astern hull-down. "Lads," said the Cap'n "Might be some prizes over yonder--off Charles Town." We cleaned the hull at Edisto An' sailed on a gray tide, a-seekin' treasure. Sloops an' snows an' passenger-boats-We sunk 'em at our leisure There was bags o' gems An' gold coins shinin' Silver bars an' brocade gilt An a sword with emeralds on its hilt. (We buried it all on St. Helena Island.) But we was taken by a English frigate crew Outside of Beaufort Town. Kruul was hanged, An' most o' the lads. Me--yer nipper--they give me 10 years to do. The treasure it's hid near a short tide-creek Under a giant water oak. I'll ship a pirate crew when I get free, An' find it one day, I hope.

—TD Conner


—Richard N. Bentley

Mississippi Crow Magazine

Wallflower My two mannerly friends and I sit at our table and watch you walk into the room. People notice you, especially the guys. Your clothes are eye-catching and a bit more daring than I would think of wearing, but then, I don’t accept every style change that comes along. Maybe that’s why I sometimes feel like a wallflower in last month’s trends. Your patent red stilettos draw attention to the fact that you’ve learned to walk on tiptoes. At least doing so is said to keep the calf muscles firm. That tight black mini skirt could easily show the meeting place of your legs, but it does make you appear smaller than you really are. The plunging neckline of your beaded and sequined red silk blouse exemplifies the fact that you carry some weight, most of it above your waistband, and that acts as if it would rather break out and roam free. Your bangles and beads jingle and sparkle as only costume jewelry can. Maybe that’s why no one comments on the diamond tennis bracelet and other jewelry I patiently paid off over time in order to have pieces of value that will last. Their sparkle is subtle and pure under the lights of the nearby dance floor, but my jewelry doesn’t make any noise. You find your table but don’t sit to give the guys a chance to notice you. That’s our way, but much too slow for you, the ultimate woman of the moment. My friends and I know your moves too well and watch you play them out as we sometimes smile behind our table napkins. You fling your tiny red evening bag into a chair and begin swiveling your way around the room talking to every guy along the way and flipping your hair using provocative gestures and batting false eyelashes. Your cleavage bounces and rolls as you gyrate your way from table to table. Some of the guys reach for you, as if they want you to stay with them a little longer. Some follow you and join others’ conversations as if trying to claim you. The women in the room watch you and some drag their guys to the dance floor when you get a little too close to their tables. I’ll bet I’m not the only person who expects you to break into song like a speak-easy entertainer of old who parks herself on the edge of some guy’s table, or in his lap. Your voice and laughter have a Are YOU in it?

way of quieting a room and drawing attention to you. Unlike you, too much noise and attention to me and my face turns red. You pass our table and look at my friends and me only momentarily so you don’t have to read our expressions. You know we understand what’s happening here. You pucker up thick glossy red lips and move on. Or is that pucker from all the injections you’ve had to enlarge the upper lip you never had till a few months ago? Your colorful eye makeup would make Nefertiti envious, but, surely, her perfume was more subtle. Your red blush diminishes the jawline under your cheek bones and accentuates your fish-like pout. Strange, too, is how once you spend an hour or so making your way around the room, you manage to corner some of the most eligible guys into a group and fawn over them, or they over you. As the night goes on you have trouble holding your glass upright. Strange, too, is how the guy you seem to favor begs out of the conversation, leaving you with the others, even though you reach for him and try to draw him back. Disbelief is your expression when he turns and walks straight over to our table and asks me to dance. As we whirl past you, the look you see on my face is not an expression of gloating. It’s simply the naturally blushing wallflower being thankful, being herself. But I can’t help wonder who you really are and what you’re hiding behind the façade you’ve felt the need to build around yourself.

Mary Deal

To her credit, Mary Deal is the author of four published novels, The Tropics, The Ka, River Bones (an Eric Hoffer Book Awards winner) and her newest, Down to the Needle (all are available wherever fine books are sold). She has written numerous stories and articles and her website is a valuable resource for writers: Mary is a 2009 Pushcart Prize nominee.


Character Sketches How to bring your characters to life. In some of my articles, I talk about choosing a point of view (POV) before you begin a story. Assuming you’ve chosen your POV, you will already be thinking about your characters. True, too, you may have been thinking about your characters before choosing your POV. The two go hand in hand, or word-for-word. In order to flesh out your characters and give them some zing, it’s a good idea to make lists of attributes for each player in the plot. However thorough, you must then write scenes to fit each character. That is, each scene that you write when this character appears in the story should reveal what you planned for him or her when you made your list, and how you planned for them to act. Of course as the story develops, any character may take on a different persona than you first imagined. That’s not a problem. Amending the original sketch will suffice, keeping in mind how the new character image affects all the other characters and the plot overall. I've always been interested in how characters are set up in stories. It is no longer good enough to list features and attributes in paragraph or outline form, which seems like we're looking at a person from head to toe and describing what we see. That’s vital, but characters do something while they act out who they are. Sometimes one thing they do can set up the reader’s impression of them for the entire story. Here’s my list of traits for the minor character Randy Osborne in my paranormal Egyptian suspense novel, The Ka: Highly educated Physical anthropologist Works with biochemistry and genetics Mama’s boy Totally insecure Sneaky Secretive Jealous Always eating Overweight Short brown hair, greasy and matted Wrinkled clothing Kind of short 34

Embarrassing to be around Obnoxious, to cover insecurities Opinionated Not very well liked Dislikes Chione (the protagonist) Thorn in everyone’s side After you make your list, the next practice that will prove immensely productive would be to write a paragraph or two incorporating those characteristics. The first time each character shows up in the plot, you must incorporate some of the qualities or lack thereof that you’ve assigned to them. You do not need to use all the attributes in one paragraph when the character makes his or her entrance. But use their habits and traits soon as possible to help round out that personality. If the story goes too far along without clueing your reader as to what they can expect from this character, the character will seem flat or unimportant. Here is Randy’s character sketch from the novel: "Everyone looked to Randy, who stood supported with a hand on the back of a chair, flagging a leg back and forth as if his underwear might be caught in the wrong place. Then he lifted the leg a couple of times in a last ditch effort to end his discomfort. His personal habits were reason for a good snicker among the tight-knit team, who could politely ridicule one another, then laugh. At times, criticism from any of them seemed all in jest, a way this group of high-strung colleagues dealt with stress. “At other times, Randy’s behavior was repulsive. He seemed to take great pleasure in eating all the time, and, thanks to his mother packing his lunch, he always had an ample supply nearby to pick at. His continual weight gain and lack of personal hygiene turned people off. He always looked sweaty and wrinkled, with matted hair. No one relished the idea of sharing a tent with him in the heat of the desert. Finally, he reached behind himself and gave the seat of his pants a tug. Not the kind of professional posture one would expect from a Physical Anthropologist who worked with genetics and biochemistry." This is similar to the paragraph I wrote soon after making the list of attributes for Randy. When I got to the part in the story where I wanted to show him in action and give the reader the full blast of what they could expect from him, I was shocked to find I had already written what I needed! This paragraph appears as soon as Randy appears in the story. We know full well what to expect from him as the story proceeds. Readers know that all characters go through what is called a character arc. That’s when the character starts Mississippi Crow Magazine

out as one persona and then changes to another before the end of the story. Sort of like the good-guy-gone-bad or vice-versa. Randy goes through a shocking metamorphosis but, well… I think I’ll leave that for the article on character arcs. *** Now let’s give your main characters the types of strong personalities that will fit your story. Your hero or heroine must be the strongest character in the plot. Perhaps you have a mental image of a person you’d like to have as the star in one of your stories. From that mental image, the picture you see in your mind, build a character. She or he will probably be your protagonist. Some of you have written short stories and have a favorite character you’ve already built. Sometimes you can make that short story character fit into a novellength book. However, the technique presented here works best if you start fresh with a character about whom you know nothing. Then you’re less likely to follow the plot line of the other story already written. To begin, just have a sort of feel for a person and start simply by listing physical attributes: age, color of eyes, skin tone, hair color, and any other physical details you feel you wish the person to have. At this point, do not list anything like the fact that the lady changes hair color frequently, or has a nailbiting neurosis. This has little to do with establishing the basics of physical image. If something extra does appear while creating the character, like seeing the character act out a scene, then your Muse is beginning to feed you details of a story you have yet to consciously realize. How exciting is that? If this extra information may be pertinent later in your story, make a separate list of added details as something you may include later. When you’re finished listing the basics of physical attributes, give the person just enough of a life so that you know what makes your character unique. - What does she or he do for a living? - How many other family members are there? - What other relatives share this character’s life and how does your character interact with them? - What are her or his best personality attributes, or worst ones? - What SECRETS does your character hide? An example: If you give your character habits like a facial tic, or nail biting, try to conjure why she or he has it. Is it the result of some repressed emotion? Is it from some shock long ago? How does this unnerving habit affect people presently in the character’s life? What crisis from her past does she have to work through to Are YOU in it?

eliminate the tic? Who’s involved? All of this needs to be incorporated into the story to develop your character. If nothing like this comes to mind for your character, don’t worry. Something else is on the way! I really like the part about the secrets. Most people have things they wouldn’t want the world to know. If you were to draw it out of them, you’d probably find some shocking information, juicy tidbits around which to build your plot, and to motivate your character. See where this is going? By the time you’ve got the first character established, you will have introduced us to other people in his or her life. Next, choose one of those secondary people and build another character sketch. It doesn’t have to be a love-interest either. The next character can be a public figure the main character tries to emulate, or someone who has been stalking her, or a neighbor, or…. Follow this procedure for each character whether or not they immediately interact with the main character. Something in the creation will tell you how to bring this person together with your main character and the others. Finally, your characters will tell you a story as you create them. Begin to write about how these people interact. You’ve had a story in mind that you’ve always wanted to write. By the time you get this far, you will know where your story is going! Trust the process. You will have conjured something important to say about these people, their lives, and their impact on one another and the outcome. Ultimately, you may not use most of the information you pack into your character sketches. However, because you have taken the time to build your characters, you will know how they react in all the circumstances presented in your plot. A morally upstanding person reacts one way to a certain occurrence; a frivolous person reacts in a completely different manner to the same situation. You will know these people because in building character sketches you unknowingly create their morals, ethics, and motivations, which will surely spice up your plot.


Deal 35

Down to the Needle by 2009 Pushcart Prize nominee, Mary Deal is a thriller set in a fictitious locale on the West Coast. “A woman's long search for her abducted daughter leads to a young woman on Death Row who is only months away from lethal injection for a crime she didn't commit.”

Author Mary Deal

Read more about Down to the Needle and order paperback, hardcover, or eBook copies from her web site:,, or wherever fine books are sold. Mary Deal’s previous novel, River Bones is an Eric Hoffer Book Awards winner. 36

Mississippi Crow Magazine

Man with a Camera a Luke Hasting, Crime Scene Photographer, short-short “I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn’t fall down.” Allen H. Neuharth, founder of USA Today “What are you hiding, Mr. Hasting?” Luke withered under the verbal onslaught of the defense attorney. He tried to disappear into the witness chair, whose creaks pounded in his ear—or was that his heart? “What is it you don’t want this jury to know, young man?” “Noth-nothing.” His voice cracked, like when he was a kid. He was soaked in sweat—his wool blazer reeked. The defense attorney sneered at him. “Let’s try a simpler question, one that won’t tax your intellect. You’re in the employ of the Lincoln Police Department, is that right?” “Um, yeah.” “’Yeah’? Is that a yes or is that a no, sir? Or do you do such a bad job, they refuse to claim you?” “No. I mean, yes. I mea—” “And you’ve been in said employ for less than a month, is that not right, Mr. Hasting? Is it not? Young man? Your answer.” “A month, yeah--yes.” He pointed at the prosecutor. “She already stipulated to my credentials when she questioned me.”

C’mon folks, what’re ya waiting for? Order your print copies of this issue of Mississippi Crow at: All contributors to Mississippi Crow Magazine will receive as

The defense attorney scoffed. “Credentials? You call being an immature, amateur shutterbug credentials?” Luke slammed his fist on the arm of the creaky chair. “No!” He turned to the judge. “He can’t talk to me like that, can he?”’ The judge glanced at the clock on the wall. The defense attorney loomed ten feet tall in front of Luke. “Then, what do you call it?” Luke slumped in the chair, large tears plopping off the tips of his nose and chin. The laughter of everyone in the room filled his ears. He looked at the judge. The jury. The prosecutor. At the blow-ups of his crime-scene photographs he’d taken so meticulously, so carefully, applying every ounce of his educated skills and God-given talents. It wasn’t enough. He stared at the defendant, the same age he was: 22. The kid’s blue eyes welled with tears, his face a mask of pleading, but Luke wasn’t going to be able to save him. “Mr. Hasting? Son?” Luke blinked at the defense attorney and pushed himself up in the creaky seat. He looked all around the courtroom. Everyone was staring at him. Luke shook himself. Where had his whirling mind just taken him? He looked into the gallery and met his father’s eyes. Mr. Hasting grinned and winked. Luke glanced beside his father. How he wished his mother and brother were sitting there. What would they say if they were? “We believe in you.” Luke looked at the easel holding the blow-ups of his handiwork, of his part of keeping his community safe. It was about time he grew up and began believing in himself. Luke mustered a grin at the defense attorney. “Sorry. This is my first time testifying.” The big man with the salt-and-pepper moustache grinned back at him. “We know. You’re doin’ just fine, son.” He circled back around to his table and put a hand on his young client’s shoulder. “Mr. Hasting, in your expert opinion, does the photographic evidence support my client’s claim of self-defense?” Luke straightened. “Yes.” He felt the prosecutor’s eyes boring into him. “Please explain your answer.” Luke shifted in the chair, ignored the creaking, and picked up the laser pointer. “In photograph #1, the pattern of the scuff marks on the wood floor indicates...”

payment, an e-book copy of

—William Parsons

the issue in which their work appears. Sandee Lyles

Are YOU in it?


Lilac Time

North of Paradise

It was the boy next door That sang of his dog And lasting friendship, One of the neighborhood gang That played war in the sweet clover, Baseball on the barely paved roads And hide and seek after sundown Who kissed me when he found me Hiding in lilac bushes.

Where the icy, night-touched waters roll And the sleeping giants lie, And the legends of the Chippewa Echo on a sigh;

Then we ran away to play other games In real time, World places, With everyday people, Winning some, losing others.

Where the harmony I strive to find All through my city days Is captured on a diamond wave Or early morning haze.

But still, That first kiss, fresh as cookies hot from the oven daring as diving into deep water a gift without conditions Lingers on my lips And I wonder at the sweet promise of lilac time. —Kathleen J. Pettit Originally published in the anthology, Talking Stick

Where the sunrise flame sets on the land Like a million blazing jewels, Where the pine trees reach to touch the sky And the summer winds blow cool.

Well, that's where I know I want to be Where the waters soothe my soul Like Mother Earth's own lullabye Made from wind and sand and foam. Where the rocks and trees are friends of mine And the flocks of seagulls scream, In a place just north of paradise Is where I keep my dreams. —LeAnn Snider

Lilacs as Watercolor—Nadia G 38

Mississippi Crow Magazine

Up North

The Crescent Heart


Walk along the shore Loons calling out plaintively Moonbeams slice the night

The moon At the sky above Looks wondeful

—Sue Stein

And the constellations of the stars O how pretty they are Showering the one and only Earth’s satelite

stone, picked up from the sand on a walk along Wisconsin Point. That Summer day, hot, like a dream from long ago. I didn't ask the stone if it wanted to leave.

Sanctuary Butterfly flits past Dappled breezes ruffle hair Breathe in joy of life —Sue Stein

Haiku by Nikki Laliberte In the dark of night sleep eludes me but beckons with teasing fingers

Boulder of anger Sits atop fields of raw grief crushing healthy growth

O Thee, Have we once noticed? We always wait The voices within It isn’t cold tonight But once we lost.. A half of our soul? Stiff Have Silence already spoken? The life that has left us All the beauty and the sorrow of Our long way road Of ‘simple’ journey A half of us The crescent heart The truth of our soul Will ever come To fill in the link To gather the bond And fill in the destiny The perfect life The Lord has given all of us —Asqarini

Dried leaves pirouette pushed on stage by gusting winds hesitant dancers

The Hunt Wave of frozen snow a white serpent’s back curling carved by stormy winds

Owls perch on a limb Rabbit scurries for cover The swooping of wings

The person I walked with and the person I was long gone, changed. Yet we still know each other. Oil from my fingers over the years has left a dark smudge on its resting side. And the stone has its own markings: fine, elliptic circles on its face, like spider's thread, a delicate labyrinth, that is crossed again and now with small grey flecks, constellations, a galaxy of windows and doors, maybe to let in music, talk. Or perhaps more to hold a stone's secrets, its dreams— its memory of water and being in another place once. —Liz Minette

—Sue Stein Are YOU in it?


Sunday, October 12, 2007—The Wolves

10,000 Days In Alaska Destined to become an iconic history of Alaskan life along the Glenn Highway during the latter part of the 20th century, this three-volume chronicle details the daily activities of Norman and Sylvia Wilkins, including the struggles and frustrations of living on the frozen tundra. Norman Wilkins and Slovenia-born Ladislava Kolenc (Sylvia to those who know her) met in postwar Gorizia, Italy, in 1946, marrying there in 1948. Norman had long felt the pull of the north, drawn to the mystique of Alaska—“the last American frontier” many said, and once the children were on their own, that desire to go north grew stronger. He made more than one hunting trip to Alaska before the 1978 expedition chronicled in these volumes, and, as the trips unfolded, so did Norman’s desire to make Alaska his permanent home—to be a part of the expansive wilderness and, yes, explore for gold! They did find gold in Alaska. They found it in the air, the mountains, the wildlife, and especially in the people—the people they worked shoulder-toshoulder with and shared their table with, each one weaving an independent piece of the tapestry of everyday life along the Glenn Highway during those years. For info go to: The following transcript appears in the epilogue of Book Three and is from an email Norman sent to several friends and family members in 2007 after settling back into life in Minnesota. Still missing his beloved Alaska, Norman found ways to savor and enjoy nature–or perhaps, I should say, nature devised ways to connect with him! 40

Sylvia and I had business to do up in Cass County, Minnesota. Sylvia fixed a good breakfast of oatmeal. I put traveling and hunting gear in the car. After we finished our business, we drove to some county land that is open to hunting. Sylvia set about gathering willow shoots of a size for weaving a basket. I set out to explore the area and perhaps see a squirrel. There are a lot of gray squirrels around there and some are black in color. Plus, there was a chance I might see a grouse. Early on I saw a chickadee, then a sandhill crane that was flying around as if lost from the rest of the flock. An eagle was soaring on the air currents. After a bit, I came to a field that looked to be growing back a scattering of brush and tall grass. I stood there with my back to heavy brush, wearing blaze orange camo, just soaking up what there was to be seen. After a few minutes, I noticed two bounding forms about a 150 yards out, coming in my direction. Clumps of willows hindered my view. At about 125 yards, they went behind willows. Shortly, a large wolf with a chunk of what looked like meat, came out in the open. I regretted having forgotten to bring my binoculars. The wolf dropped to its belly and consumed this meat, then rolled around on that area before getting to its feet and going back behind the willows. The other wolf exited out the other side of the willows. In a little while, I saw three wolves at one time; they seemed to be playing. Then two came out on each side of the willow clump headed directly at me at a trot. They had looked my way several times, but always went back to eating or playing. Perhaps they decided to identify what it was they were looking at. When they got to about 60 yards from me, I touched off the right barrel of my 20 gauge; the shot going over their heads. The two big ones did a sharp 180 and left at a run towards the west. Wolves with a belly full of meat can’t run very fast. The other two split off, running to the north a couple hundred yards, then veered off to the east. The fun being over, I hunted on the way back to our parking place. Later I got to thinking about all this. I wished I had walked over to what must have been a kill site–but that would have been trespassing on someone else’s land. So long for now, Mississippi Crow Magazine

Mississippi Crow Issue 10  
Mississippi Crow Issue 10  

Acrylic on canvas, “Fresh Picked” by artist Megan Duncanson of Alaska is featured on the cover. This issue contains articles by Mary Deal...