I am always vigilant. When I sit down in a room I make sure I can see the door and if possible know of at least one other way to exit. I scan faces, read bodies. I have radar for anger, for need, for fear.

I am a child but no longer childish. I have no time for such things.
I am a hunter of invisible weapons. Weapons held on the insides of grown-ups where they cannot be easily seen. Held in their thoughts and desires and perversions. Yes—I know what a perversion is. Weapons hidden away in polite circles. I can see them, poking out of a breast pocket or a pocket book. Shiny and sharp and ready to cut.

I hunt these weapons not to steal them but to survive them. The world is a battlefield and the landmines are in people’s hearts.  Evil intentions lurk everywhere like eager snipers. I cannot hope to disarm them all. I am not strong enough to take captives. I must be alert, cunning but not obvious, charming, at ease—and child-like.

By Devorah Uriel
The Write Age
Winter 2017

Like Thousands of Others, My Father Brought Back Souvenirs from the War

Here is a photo, black and white:
My father, 40 years old,
Standing in mud up to his shins
At an army camp
in Paupau, New Guinea.
It is the war. 
He is smiling at the camera.

Seventy years later,
The slim, hand-carved walking stick
He brought back from the war
Is my daily companion.

Thirty-six inches tall, made from
Dark walnut wood,
White lime rubbed into incised
Designs, with two small human figures
Standing back to back, guarding
The user of the stick.

A man from New Guinea, name unknown,
Traded this splendid creation
To my father, for….what?
American coins? Two tins of spam?
Perhaps bullet casings, plus
An unused army cap.

I know what happened
To my father: the medals, the struggles,
Successes and illness.
But what became of the carver?

Was he sent to the mines, or
Killed in a raid
By a neighboring tribe?
Or did he learn the language of
The colonizers and sit in an office,
Enjoying some small slice of power.

Examining the photo of my father,
I imagine the artisan standing
Just beyond the camera’s lens,
Wishing these strangers would leave.

And what of the carver’s children?
Do they have PhDs?  Are they are world travelers?
How I yearn to tell them
Of the long arc of their father’s
Elegant work, which reaches
Through time and space
To support an old woman
On the other side of the world.

By Esther Ann Griswold
The Write Age
Winter 2017

Victorian Parlor

 As I walked past, I spied you through the door.

When you came here to visit, you saw my husband’s parlor, the place he keeps his trophies “to his worldliness.” There are, of course, his paintings of men – of cowboys, Presidents, Indians…even an African man. And his paintings of vast landscapes – wide open spaces – places where he is free to go...and does. I hope you noticed the ship and trains. He likes to look at them – they remind him of his adventures.

I assume the furniture was comfortable for you; it is all sized to him. Did it strike you that everything is covered in the colors he craves? Shiny gold; building brick red.

I would have preferred rose.

Oh, and did you see the Oriental vases? They never hold flowers. But when my husband and his friends play poker they use them as spittoons.

You didn’t see me in my husband’s parlor. Or – maybe – if you looked closely, you did. That one picture. The one of the woman feeding chickens. The woman stands there…feeding chickens. A man sits on the porch; a boy sits on the porch steps. They sit and watch her work. Her work is feeding chickens.

When you came here to visit, you saw my husband’s parlor…but not mine.

I am not “worldly”; I am not a “property owner.” I am not free to travel; I have no “international oddities,” no “exotic collections.”

I am not afforded a parlor.

By Joanne Kuemmerlin
Writing the West @AMWA
Installed at American Museum of Western Art
Spring 2016

The Road to Compassion

Before you can discover compassion, you must step away from comfort. You must drain the moat, lift the gates of the fort. You must sweep the path of branches and leaves to make it welcoming for the unforeseen sojourner. You must shed, snake-like, exposing self to get the feel of another skin. You must stand or dance drenched in rain barefoot on sharp stones to feel the pain you know to be the traveler’s burden.
You have to take the hurt in to release it with an anguished, silent screaming breath to know the sorrow of a stranger’s struggle or a loved one’s death, to not let a blanket, warm with your own heat, become little more than a shroud, a winding sheet under which you are but some kind of ghost unable to be a welcoming host to those lost and injured, blind, dumb, crippled, and needy souls that come onto your path and walk or crawl beside you and make you think that you deserve more than others sharing this path, this road, this planet we call Earth. Prepare that road.

By Michael Sindler
Hard Times Writing Workshop
Fall 2016


I finally found a home
after two years being labeled “homeless,”
or, the “chronically homeless”
I wonder if I still am—
I guess I had fit the qualifications
they had written on the questionnaire
My experience of
poverty and violence
put me there
I love my new home
despite the labels
and the ongoing fear of
losing a home
I wonder if I belong anywhere,
even in my own home
I look out the window at the city below,
the wind chill factor way below—
my expectations way below
A man I had given a dollar to months before
brought a mattress to sleep behind the dumpster
right across from my window
I wish I could invite him into the building,
into the warmth
I never will
Every morning as I go to work
or somewhere
I see him
He looks at me
not perverted, not angry,
he looks at me with such sincerity,
with such loneliness
All I could do is look back at him,
into his eyes
and offer him a home,
of sorts

By Darlina
Hard Times Writing Workshop
Winter 2017

Star K Ranch

majestic raptors
on warming thermals
the cool autumn breeze
murmurs through the colored leaves
winter is coming
robins singing
flowers blooming
sunshine warming
aah spring
over sun drenched trees
great horned owl flies in silence
inspiration found
there is a place
where meadowlarks sing
peace to my soul
oh to leave the sounds
of the city behind me
heaven on earth
my high
my therapy
who is watching me
high in the cottonwood
great horned owl
nature so close
softens our city ways
prairie wildlife

By Linda Broeren
Write Aurora program, Star K Ranch collaboration
Fall 2016

The First

Watching my nephew in his Spiderman costume playing in the park near my home, I feel the love of an uncle for my brother’s son. This Spiderman is the first born son in my family. Watching him play and grow, I can imagine what a beautiful man he will become.

In Arabic:
عندما ارى ابن اخي يلعب قرب بيتنا في لباس الرجل العنكبوت، اشعر في حب العم تجاه أبن أخيه. رجل العنكبوت هذا اول الاطفال الذين ولدو في عائلتي. اراه يلعب ويكبر واتصوره عندما يكبر  ويصبح رجلً.


By Mustafa Mahmood, Iraqi Refugee
Emily Griffith Picture Me Here collaboration
Fall 2016

Fear of the Unknown

I pass by a beautiful flower bed every morning. It’s near the entrance to a business building on Lincoln and 17th. Every day, respectable men and women come in and out of this majestic building.

One morning, I saw a homeless man asleep there. It grieved me to look at this man, and reminded me that I’d seen many of the same people on the streets of Denver. This is awful to think about, awful when someone doesn’t have a roof over their head or a bed to sleep in. (In Moldova, we have many people unemployed, hard workers who can’t find jobs. But you don’t see them sleeping on the street.)

I can’t understand the causes of this problem, but that sight evokes my fear of the unknown.

In Russian:
Каждое утро я прохожу мимо чудесной клумбы. Она находится у входа в деловое здание на пересечении улиц Линкольна и 17-й авеню. И каждый день респектабельные мужчины и женщины входят в огромные стеклянные двери этого здания и выходят из них.

Однажды утром я увидела бездомного мужчину, спящего на этой клумбе. Мое сердце защемило от жалости к этому человеку и я вспомнила, что видела и раньше подобных людей на улицах Денвера. Я шла и думала, как это страшно, не иметь крышу над головой. В Молдове живут очень трудолюбивые люди , но, из-за ужасающей безработицы, они не могут найти работу. Но вы не увидите ни одного из них, спящего на улице.


By Victoria Dizghinjili, a refugee from Moldova
Written in August 2016, during an Emily Griffith Technical College class, a collaboration with Picture Me Here

What Surprises Me

Something that surprises me here in Denver is Colfax Avenue. When I was in Uganda, I didn't expect to find a place like Colfax in Denver, where homeless people sleep on the street. In Uganda, even when people are poor, they take care of each other.

In Kiswahili:
Vitu ambavyo vili nishangaza wakati nilipo fika Denverni Colfax AmbapoPana jaa uchafu na watu ku lala kwenye Balabala, siku zani hata siku moja kama nita ku Tana na fasi kama hiyo ndani Ya muji mukubwa kama huu. Uganda hata kama watu ni masikinialakini Wana jitahidi kusaidiyana.


By Grace Ushindi, Ugandan refugee
Emily Griffith Workshops
Fall 2016





I never considered myself to be
a flower. I was always plain, a weed
in everyone else’s flowerpots,
a weakling, a sprout that never
quite received enough sun to
grow. People would tell me I was
wrong, to see myself how everyone
else did, but nothing changed.
I was a barren countryside,
a meadow scorched after
a wildfire, though everyone
around me was vibrant.
Then, out of the blue, I began
to notice the details. which
had seemed mundane. I started
to see the colors in myself,
and the sunlight began
to stream through my blood.
I never considered myself to be
a flower—but now I think I do.


By Jordan Prochnow

Sunrise, Sunset

I like to take pictures of the sunset because it looks peaceful; it also reminds me my home in Vietnam. My home country is halfway around the world, so I don't usually go to visit. When I miss my home out there, I usually look at the sunset. The sunset in the US is the sunrise in Vietnam.

In Vietnamese:
Tôi thích chụp những bức hình về hoàng hôn bởi vì nó trông rất bình yên. Cảnh hoàng hôn còn gợi nhớ cho tôi về nhà của tôi ở Việt Nam. Quê hương của tôi thì cách nữa vòng trái đất, vì vậy tôi không thường xuyên về thăm quê. Những khi nhớ quê nhà tôi thường ngắm hoàng hôn. Hoàng hôn ở Mỹ là bình minh ở Việt Nam.


By Hanh Nguyen
Emily Griffith workshops for refugees
Fall 2016



Inside the Grand Wizard's House

When I got back to my apartment, I had lost my keys, so I climbed in the window. My TV was on and I thought maybe someone was in there. In the fridge was the beer and the vodka, so I knew that nobody had been there or all that would have been gone. I guess I’d left my TV on for all that time.


By Eric McIntyre
Fort Lyon Residential Community Workshops
Fall 2016