Art + Letters

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Marilyn and Jules had met about eight years ago at a rooftop margarita tasting. Their mutual friend Jill had originally arranged the tasting in hopes of setting Julies up with her new co-worker, Nina. Nina had been emboldened at the prospect of a new romance and a brand new box of hair dye she’d bought on impulse earlier that day. She applied her “Golden Gaia” while flipping through a magazine, dozing off for not the recommended thirty-five minutes, but forty five. Unfortunately for Nina, Jules had little interest in women who found hair-dye to be a practical expense and, upon being introduced to her, looked no further than her brutally white-blond strands before deeming her entirely un-dateable.

Disappointed early in the night, Jules took to the tasting table. As she re-salted her third rim she bumped hands with Marilyn who, set against the balmy sunset, a few gray hairs proudly crowning her head, cheeks glowing pink (Marilyn was salting her fourth), struck her as a figurehead of raw and unbridled feminine beauty.

Marilyn and Jules spent the night inseparable. Jules, who was a chatty drunk, did most of the talking, gesturing passionately about those who do yoga just because it’s trendy (Nina) versus those who truly connect with the spiritual practice (Jules). Marilyn listened little but found her gesturing intoxicating, often becoming distracted by the striking appearance of Joann’s sun-bleached hair, eyebrows and eyelashes against her golden colored skin. This especially attracted Marylin as it kept reminding her to think about really, seriously, finally trying out that box of blond hair dye nearing its expiration date in the back of her medicine cabinet. (This box, in addition to Marylin’s newly purchased yogaerobics DVDs, were swiftly discarded after that night of Jules’ many fervent rants about women today).

Seven months after Jules met Marilyn at the rooftop tasting, she slipped a copy of her key underneath Marilyn’s slice of toast one morning, asking her to move into her one bedroom.

Not quite two years after that, Marilyn and Jules were married in a tasteful yet practical commitment ceremony, (no white involved), before twenty of their closest friends and family.

Life was beyond ideal for the two and almost daily people would remark at how lucky they were to have found each other. For, not only were Marilyn and Jules an unbelievable match…

…Marilyn and Jules were also mummies.

Art & Letters is a collaboration:

It’s a switcheroo!

Story by Maren Jensen

Drawing by Colleen Sohn


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Zing and fling

Muffle and kerfuffle

words that rhyme.

The repetition

dulling bright intellects

in leaden precious pockets.

This redundancy

this mindless work

a steady stream of liquid pink on crisp paper

scallop after scallop

sharp scissors

and glue:


flaxen sunlight on pale winter skin

before an eager tearing of envelopes

a melting of veins


spirits rising over hill and dale

and vast landscapes,

miles and feet between.

Strangers, friends, and lovers uniting

in a gleeful tangle

of mirth

made by one

but for us all.

Art & Letters is a collaboration:

Art by Maren Jensen

Interpreted by Colleen Sohn

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Pancho’s Bullet

Cora met Pancho Villa when she was eight years old, at a party with her father, somewhere near her childhood home and the site of a great battle between his army and the Americans. The reason for her attendance, and more importantly, her father’s, a long unsolved mystery.

She often wondered if she’d dreamt it all, the funny Mexican with a larger than life mustache and hat. Were it not for the bullet, taken directly from his bandoliered chest, she’d have no reason to believe otherwise. But there it lay, cool in the palm of her hand, exactly as he’d placed it, so many years ago.

Spied from a distance, she became curious and stalked the great character, stealing glimpses from behind broad legs and skirts, and anything else capable of concealment. Though she never saw him take a drop of liquor, he ate and talked and laughed more than her father, which was quite a feat.

Despite these obvious distractions, the surveillance did not go unnoticed, and he turned and surprised her, facetiously asking if she was an assassin. She tried to flee, but could not, and he charmed her like all the ladies, mustache wriggling like a caterpillar. Before releasing her from his grasp, he ceremoniously removed the bullet and said it would protect her, as it had him against the backstabbing Americans. She didn’t dare tell him she was one of them, born and raised, before running off, quick as her legs could take her.

Since then, it had never been out of her possession, for twenty-five years a talisman and her greatest secret, kept hidden under her pillow, in a pocket, or the folds of her purse. She even brought it into the bath, afraid some calamity would befall her if it wasn’t within reach or the lead pressing firmly into her palm.

Then she met Clement, raven haired and handsome, a dazzling smile wide as the sky, and eyes wild for her, a spinster and hopeless cause, or so she thought. But there he was, smiling and joking at the library, eager for her help, eager for a word to spill from her lips and into his heart.

He was a crop duster, a daredevil of the sky, swooping in craven low loops and up, up again, and more at home there, curls whipping like wings, than nearly any place, save where Cora was.

They quickly found themselves married, and ecstatically so, with warm days spent on bicycles or their naked bodies tangled in clear lake water. In the cool of autumn and winter, she brought home books to read together before listening to records or their favorite programs on the radio. He sometimes took her out in his plane, sharing a glimpse of the world from God’s eye, despite her fears and a sincere belief that only birds were meant to fly. It was at these moments the bullet soothed her most, and, quite possibly, kept them both alive.

Then came The War and Clement’s fidelity to a certain ideal and his beloved country. He would be a paratrooper, and his body, not a cloud of chemicals, raining onto a faraway land.

She hated the thought, hated the epic distance it would take him, and worse still, what might happen. As his departure drew nearer, she wished for an answer, for something to keep him safe, the lead of Pancho’s bullet digging deeper into her skin, and for the longest time not realizing that it was the solution.

Then, on that fateful day, she said her goodbyes and pressed it into his palm, the story of its presence and a multitude of tears soothing her like a balm. He stood, at first mystified that she could keep such a secret, then grateful for all it meant, and hugging her with all his might.

On the day of Clement’s first mission, as the plane climbed higher and higher, Cora rode her bicycle down a favorite country road, missing him terribly. A crow, swirling high above, caught her eye, and as it swooped down, there was Clement, hand firmly over his breast pocket, a magic bullet, and a photograph of his beloved.

Art & Letters is a collaboration:

Story written by Colleen Sohn

Artistically interpreted by Maren Jensen



The Fine Print

You stop in your tracks,

Thinking you know me.

I do not have another half.

No soul mirrors mine.

I have scratched and clawed and bitten for this tenuous grasp.

I cannot let it go.

Your confidence.

Your smile.

The way laughter spills easily from your mouth.

How did you arrive at that place?

No border

Nor barrier

Pulpy heart beating for all to see.

If I remove this thin veil,

My nakedness will show

And perhaps that I am a fool

And lived my days


For the me I’ve only just discovered in you.


Art & Letters is a collaboration:

Water color by Maren Jensen

Interpreted by Colleen Sohn


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The Worry Jar

 Fretting, on the verge of worry, she walks slowly to the library, really a glorified office, but possessing more books than anything, she feels justified in the label. There, on the highest shelf, it waits. The Worry Jar. A beautiful apothecary glass, it holds, quite literally, a lifetime of worries, or at least the significant, remembered ones, worthy of writing in her finest hand on a slip of paper.

The whole endeavor was her mother’s idea, a method to quell the anxious heart of an overly nervous child. “We’ll write whatever is worrying you down, put it in the jar, and that will be the end of it, okay?” Though it didn’t exactly work as promised, the hope it offered soothed her like a balm, which, like so much in life, was enough. As a result, the jar had never once been emptied, and moved, along with its owner, contents lovingly swaddled in a towel and carefully packed in a box, nearly a dozen times, even crossing several international borders.

They were positively crammed in, and she remembers now, after writing her last worry (what was it?) and masterfully packing it into the jar, that there was not a millimeter more space. What to do? She carefully takes the jar from its high perch, holds it before her eyes and peers in, wondering what harm there could be in letting just one go. A simple one, from the bottom, and childhood? Yes, she thinks, she could definitely step on a crack and not break her mother’s back. How silly she had been!

She carefully sets the jar down and begins to unscrew the lid. As she does, something unexpected happens, for it begins to vibrate, gently, at first, but then with something nearer to violence. She tightens her grip and brings the jar back to eye level, realizing the worries are moving, spinning, gyrating, like bees? Yes, bees!

Though she doesn’t understand the alchemy, she most certainly understands the desire for freedom, so she hurriedly sets the jar on the desk and turns the lid. She closes her eyes, and the bees swarm, humming and fanning her like a queen before disappearing into the ether.

In the quiet of their absence, she opens her eyes, heart aflutter, and glances about the room. Had it really happened? The jar lay on its side, empty, save a glossy slick of honey and a single slip of paper, written in her mother’s hand, that reads: Don’t worry, sweetheart. I love you.

Art & Letters is a collaboration:

Story written by Colleen Sohn

Artistically interpreted by Maren Jensen



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