The Day Marvin Gaye Died

Emmanuel Ortiz performing spoken word at a January 2013 Lowertown Reading Jam. (Illustration: Ta-coumba Aiken/

Every generation has its historical moments Of collective grief and disbelief Moments we forever remember Exactly where we were when . . . The deaths of Kennedy, King, Clemente The space shuttle Challenger explosion When the planes hit the towers on 9/11 Some of these things I was around for Some I was not. But […]

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City Trees, Coffee Shop, Spring

Nina’s Coffee Café. (Illustration: Ken Avidor/

Some days trees are all I see.

Today they’re getting fringed in leaves

at the crown. Underneath

there’s a huge ball of root

that nobody sees except my son...

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After 52.6% of Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in November 2012, the Minnesota Legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill in May 2013, which Governor Mark Dayton signed on May 14. Same-sex marriage became legal in Minnesota on August 1, 2013. (Photo: Bianca Pettis)

My father and I used to go door-to-door delivering wafers in a tiny gold case. I imagined my father gave me this job to make me feel special when all of the older kids went to school. When they disappeared behind the doors of St. Mark’s School with their starched uniforms and shiny pencil cases, I felt left out. As a remedy, my father quickly got me started in the business of delivering communion to neighborhood elders...

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Calling Gadahlski

(Original Almanac illustration: William Birawer/

Gadahlski refers to the garage door of the house I grew up in. The house was a modern rambler sitting on a hill in the pristine, well-educated community of St. Anthony Park. My parents, my sister, and I did whatever we could to fit into the mold of “the Park.” The house expressed this desire for perfection with its regularly mowed lawn, clipped hedges, and fresh paint. Even the flower and vegetable gardens were neat and orderly.

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What's in a Name?

Yusef Mgeni (Photo courtesy Metropolitan State University)

Growing up as young Black men in Saint Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, we learned a lot from the generation of Black men who preceded us. We, like they before us, were simply known as “the Rondo boys.” Rondo was where we learned to survive, to grow and develop—it was where we learned the value of our extended family membership, where we fell in love and got our hearts broken. It was also where we learned what’s in a name.

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Mary Dear

(Photo courtesy St. Catherine University/

It snowed that afternoon. Heavy, wet flakes pelted my coat on my walk down the sloping drive toward Cleveland Avenue. By the time I got to the iron gate it was soaked through and smelled of wet lamb’s wool. I looked back. I was an English major at St. Catherine’s that snowy day in February […]

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Small Comfort

(Sculpture/illustration: Alex Kuno)

I remember hearing Kurt Vonnegut, who

was speaking in Saint Paul, say that when

the aliens arrived on a desolated earth,

we should leave them a message, carved in

the walls of the Grand Canyon...

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A winter marriage proposal in Rice Park. (Photo: Chris Emeott/

It was my mom’s first marriage proposal. At eight, she was the ­older woman. George was only six. After hasty consideration, Mom turned him down. As she explained to her mother, she couldn’t marry George. He liked carrots. She didn’t.

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(Photo courtesy Amy Clark)

The photo had sat on the windowsill for the last twenty years. It had borne the sun’s ultraviolet tentacles until they sucked the ink from each pore. The image was that of the first child, a promise of greatness and potential to be cultivated.

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