Our Stories

Mears Park

Mears Park

Where I first put my arm around you. Clad in red coats and autumn hats, we walked from the Farmers’ Market, bags of basil in hand, then arm in arm. The dog waited.
The Sweet Potato Lady (Deborah Torraine)

The Sweet Potato Lady (Deborah Torraine)

When I see sweet potatoes, I often think of Deborah Torraine. Deb was a community organizer in the Twin Cities. She always referred to herself as a cultural worker; she was a mentor to new and emerging artists, and the Director of Community Engagement for the Saint Paul Almanac.
Old Rondo

Old Rondo

we were Ferris wheel watchers firefly fighters dollar store cap gun robbers cops and Sunday creased collars private school scholars giving the church basket the dollars our mothers slipped into our pockets seconds before.
Going to the Library

Going to the Library

Early on, my library card was one of my most precious possessions. This small piece of heavy card stock, about three by four inches, was my passport to the adventure of other worlds, and also to my own adventures.
Selby Avenue, 1970

Selby Avenue, 1970

As a teenager I drove grain trucks, pickup trucks, and Massey Ferguson tractors for farmers in the Red River Valley. I hauled oats, corn, and soybeans and drove alongside combines as wheat poured into truck beds. I plowed fields and threw straw bales. While not an idyllic life by any means, it was a life of sunshine and even golder harvest moons.
Eating Philosophy

Eating Philosophy

Waitress walking across the bridge still smell like kitchen. Want to serve you my seven spice butter sauce blueberry eyes freshly baked buns grated parmesan hair.
Good River Feeling Bad

Good River Feeling Bad

Her voice is deep water, Though she’s too shallow this year for ships, Her body more round than angular, When I ask her questions I get more, Answers than I know what to do with, She says her name in whispers
Teaching from the Heart

Teaching from the Heart

As with most love affairs, it happened by chance and caught me by surprise. After our first few dates, I realized that my life had led me to this moment, that I was right where I belonged: in front of 150 students every day at Central High School.
The True Box of Life

The True Box of Life

Kofi Bobby Hickman taught us about the three snakes of life: the cobra snake—it lures you in; the rattlesnake—it warns you; and the garter snake—it bites you without warning.
Thank You for Calling The Radisson Saint Paul

Thank You for Calling The Radisson Saint Paul

During the summer of 1980 between my sophomore and junior years at Hamline University, I worked as a telephone operator on the 3 to 11 p.m. shift on the last existing cord board in Saint Paul, at the downtown Radisson Hotel. The toggles and cords were mounted in a long, narrow black desk with metal-rimmed holes in a vertical wall panel. Two operators sat side by side, clicking the cloth-wrapped cords into room-numbered holes to connect the calls.

Grandma’s Arms

Grandma’s brown arms
wrapped around the world
and held it tight,
close to her bosom,
close to her heartbeat.
Grandma’s brown arms
always listened,
paid attention,
knew just how tight
to squeeze,
and when to let go.
The Cathedral—June Thirteenth

The Cathedral—June Thirteenth

Because the vistas end in arches that do not change And the grillwork of sails forecasts a season of palms The dove holds a steady hover over the crossroads of death My heart beats erratically I have been afraid of harsh words of hounds quarrying the cat of my aging....

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

“All over (America), Negro boys and girls are growing into stunted maturity, trying desperately to find a place to stand, and the wonder is not that so many are ruined—but that so many survive!”
JAMES BALDWIN 1955
Photograph of My Grandparents

Photograph of My Grandparents

Frayed upon the edges
Free of wrinkles despite
that they were not then
My father’s parents
looked so in love
at a time in the 1930s
Walks with the Chowhound

Walks with the Chowhound

Selby is a chowhound. an inveterate, unrelenting, willfully indiscriminate gastronome of Saint Paul street food. naturally he is named after the street where he lives, Selby avenue, and naturally, when I come to dog sit him, we commence our journeys from that haunt of celebrated eateries, dine-ins, and dessert stops.
The Drive

The Drive

Not wanting to alarm my husband and infant son, in case they’ve fallen back asleep, I don’t call. I don’t even text. But I do take a picture with my camera-phone, because I need proof that I’ve done it, that I’m actually here: sitting in a 2005 toyota Matrix, outside the Saint anthony Park library. this is incredible.
In Praise of Aging

In Praise of Aging

In praise of buses rattling through the streets
In praise of passengers jostling for a seat
In praise of a transfer I didn’t need to buy
In praise of snow falling from the sky, and my down coat
Bought secondhand but warm
An Eleven-Year-Old’s Profile in Courage

An Eleven-Year-Old’s Profile in Courage

It is a good collection of boys, my son’s Midway baseball team. They won their share of games, but the biggest victory came with the biggest loss for one of Sid’s teammates. It was an unparalleled profile in courage, not just for him but for all the boys.
“The Chug and Deubner Hill”

“The Chug and Deubner Hill”

I grew up in the West End on Arbor Street, by the old Schmidt Brewery. One of our pastimes in the mid-fifties was building and racing “chugs,” which were homemade go-carts, made entirely of found parts—boards, bent nails we straightened with a hammer on the sidewalk, and of course the most cherished find, wheels big enough to use (many baby carriages were wheel-less that summer).
Helping Father in the Garden on a Summer Night

Helping Father in the Garden on a Summer Night

Swatting mosquitoes in the rhubarb,
I watch you pull husky potatoes from the earth.
You roll them in your palms and scuff the dirt from their bulging eyes and moony grins.
Here’s Mister Potato Head!
Kwame J. C. McDonald: He Faced Death with Courage

Kwame J. C. McDonald: He Faced Death with Courage

Kwame McDonald was a much-loved icon in the community. He was well traveled and well known across the country. My relationship with him—a relationship of associating and working together—lasted over thirty years, right up until the time he died. This is also a story about the manner in which he died, his whole attitude about life and death, and the acceptance of his fate.
Ironic Meetings of Ghosts at the Irish Fair of Minnesota on Saint Paul’s Harriet Island

Ironic Meetings of Ghosts at the Irish Fair of Minnesota on Saint Paul’s Harriet Island

The Irish Fair’s site along the pewter-gray, spreading Mississippi beneath downtown Saint Paul on the ample greensward of Harriet Island is majestic and invites celebration. The bustling and music-crammed Irish Fair with its snowy canvas tents, its black-tinted signposts, and plentiful green turf offers an Ireland of the mind to its visitors.
The Zoo at Night

The Zoo at Night

You’re not alone with your sleeplessness. The lion is roaring. There’s a peacock, too, though you didn’t recognize its call until Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom went to India. You’re not alone because a distant siren cues the timber wolves, all of them except the shy ebony outsider, the only one who doesn’t fight over the salami your brother tosses into the Wolf Woods.
All Good Things Are Wild And Free

All Good Things Are Wild And Free

“IN THE MIDDLE of all the chaos of life, a massage,” smiles Andrea Sullivan. She is a practitioner of Shiatsu Anma, Chinese Abdominal Detox Massage (Chi Nei Tsang), Thai Yoga Massage, and Taoist Medical Qi Gong and meditation, and to watch Andrea giving a massage in the moiling farmers' market is becalming.
Paper Planes

Paper Planes

My grandmother had forbidden me from going to their house, so Jaine and Tamara starting sending me airmail. My bedroom window faced their yard, and when my grandmother wasn’t home or it was dark out, they would write me notes on paper airplanes and send them up through my window. I had just learned to read and write so it was all very exciting...
Dylan, Spider John, and the Purple Onion

Dylan, Spider John, and the Purple Onion

Dylan, Spider John, and the Purple Onion by Bob Scroggins I got to know Saint Paul and I got to know Bob Dylan because I got to know Bill Danielson. Bill owned the Pink Pizza Shack at Hiawatha and Lake in Minneapolis. In 1957 it was a hangout for me and my friends....

Slow Boats and Fast Water

Slow Boats and Fast Water

Early in the morning on June 21, 2007, my son Cullen encountered a rowing scull, crewed by five young women in the Saint Paul Harbor and pinned by a heavy current of the Mississippi River. This crew team had misjudged the current and was trapped against the Padelford wharf barge.
Tornado

Tornado

Just beyond the hem of the lake’s blue skirt
the sky turned suddenly jaundiced,
a weighted stillness, not quite your own, descended, and even the black pine
and birch hovered motionless
in a calm that bore no calm at all.
Danger Days

Danger Days

Back in the old danger days,
when we were kids, we stood
on the front seat of the Chevy Impala—no seat belts to hold us back,
our mother’s arm the only thing between us and the dashboard
True Myth

True Myth

Tell a child she is composed of parts
(her Ojibway quarters, her German half-heart)

she’ll find the existence of harpies easy
to swallow.
“Summer Socks”

“Summer Socks”

The summer I turned nine was filled with days spent with my two best friends, Punch and Dell. A day would begin at first light as I slipped through the house like a ghost after pulling on faded shorts and a too-small shirt.
A Civilized People

A Civilized People

I take a seat at a corner table facing the window. A blustery spring day. The mutter of cars and buses as they pull up to the stop sign. Western Avenue, once the city limit back when little farms lay between St. Paul and the milling city of Minneapolis.
Clarence Street for Sale

Clarence Street for Sale

Let us think on the porch darling. Sit anywhere you like. I sit here because it fits me.
I can get up quickly, if need be, possibly never return.
You stay here with the morning sun dripping on your forehead.

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