Literature 2-16-2010

mnLIT presents: Jorie Miller

This week's mnLIT winner, "July 29, 1954" by Jorie Miller, was selected for the 2009 cycle of miniStories by novelist Jon Fasman.

miniStories winner, Jorie Miller
mnLIT: What Light Poetry Project and the miniStories flash fiction competition

JULY 29, 1954

I was born because he stayed alive in Korea through all the night duties, through that time he got lost in the mountains and was behind enemy lines, before he found his way back by listening for American voices.

I was born because, back in Minnesota, she didn’t marry anyone else, but worked at Brentwood Eggs keeping the accounts. She stayed living on the farm, dutiful youngest daughter, when her sister married and her brother was drafted.

I was born because she stayed and drove for her mom and went into town and hung out with Arlene and didn’t go to college, because there wasn’t any money anyway, so why even think about it.

And so, I was born, though it almost didn’t happen, because, after all, he didn’t ask her to wait for him, said he wasn’t going to have any girl sitting around while he was away and who knew if you’d ever make it back, so in the name of kindness, he didn’t ask and she was so mad, she said If you’re not going to ask me to wait, then I just won’t.

So, she just didn’t care if a certain soldier had written her sister asking about a certain girl back home. And a certain soldier wrote that if a certain someone wanted to know how he was doing that that certain someone could just write a letter herself instead of passing messages.

So, I was born out of all that complication and longing for a normal life, whatever normal life could mean. But, in those years, a war could go on half-way across the world and it would be a long time before you knew if anyone was lost or scared, or bloody, or dying.

She couldn’t have known the feelings he was living with, though she remembered, as they drove at night, he named the animals whose eyes he saw glitter in the fields. Cat, pheasant, dog, coon. The frost settled in, the cornstalks dried and held on, their roots like fingers in the earth.

He had learned to see in the dark in the hours she had spent dancing or working or sleeping in the same poor, but peaceful farmland she had always known. Could there be anything smaller than that waist of hers? Was there anything more innocent than her self-centered anger?

How could they gather the worlds they’d been living in into one single heart? There was no better way to gather up the complexity, the things they understood beyond words. No other way to say the unsayable.

And so, I was born.


Juror comments: Jorie Miller’s story was selected for the 2009 cycle of miniStories by novelist Jon Fasman, who writes, “This could easily have been hokey, and indeed it walked that line in the last graf, but I found the story moving, and the retrospection worked well.”

About the author: Jorie Miller has an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota. Her work has been published in journals such as ArtWord Quarterly, California Quarterly, and Fifth Column. She is most recently published in the anthology, County Lines: 87 Minnesota Counties, 130 Minnesota Poets. In 2005 she received a Rural and Regional Studies residency fellowship from Southwest Minnesota State University to work on her memoir Arnie’s Girl (unpublished). She teaches writing classes for beginners at The Loft Literary Center and at the White Bear Center for the Arts. Her poem, Coronation, was a winner in the What Light series of fall 2008.

______________________________________________________ is a joint project of the Walker Art Center and the McKnight Foundation

Membership on is FREE. Find step-by-step instructions for how to join and how to use the free resources available on the site. If you need assistance, contact Will Lager at Any Minnesota resident is eligible to participate in’s mnLIT competitions for poetry and fiction; there are no entry fees, and writers at all levels of skill and experience are welcome to enter work for consideration by a revolving panel of established authors and publishing professionals in mnLIT’s blind adjudication process.