Sunday, 16 November 2008
Of particular interest to me was the water slide located directly behind our little cabin. It was summer and the water slide was the only thing that seemed like fun in a little village such as this one. This slide was not your ordinary slide. It started at the top of one of the mountains and ended in a pool of chlorine close to the back door of our cabin.
As soon as my dad said I could go on ahead while he paid, I was out the door. I could hear the water rushing down the mountain and the voices of children and adults alike whooshed past me and ended with a splash. I watched excitedly as I climbed the steps to the top.
I looked down from the peak at the winding groove of concrete I was to descend upon. I was then handed a blue piece of spongy material, told to lie on my stomach and hold on. I did.
The first blast of water hit me from behind so hard it forced a scream from my throat and my sponge and me down the mountain. I was surprised when I came to a complete stop at the top third of my ride. Confused, I was suddenly and even more forcefully hit with a second burst of water that pushed me further down the slide. Unfortunately my sponge was taken out from under me and travelled solo all the way down to my waiting parents.
The third blast rocketed me on my bare hipbones toward the same destination as my formerly partnered sponge. The pain of my bones on rocky concrete sent chilling screams from my mouth to my parents ears. My toes, unprotected by shoes, bore down on the concrete in a futile attempt to brake my ever-increasing speed down the mountain. I could see my parents running to meet me where my horrific ride would end, terror written on their faces.
I hit the pool with a titanic force but it was like being baptized. Under the water, despite the sting of chemicals in my wounds, I had been cleansed, enlightened and there was no more horror, if only for a minute. I breathed out from my core into the thick, syrupy water all my pain and hung in mid-air until my lungs ached for oxygen.
When I emerged, I stood crying in the chest-deep water before my parents, my blue sponge floating peacefully next to me. I got out of the pool and saw the faces staring at my body. Two protruding, milky bones lay atop the bottom of my bikini while streaks of blood made their way down my legs to mingle with the blood spilling from the knuckles in my toes.
I had made my way down my first adult water slide and my dad said, “I ran as fast as I could and your mother still got to you before I did”. My eyes had been opened.
by Amy Irons, IUSB
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
His hands clenched around the ground behind him, it shifted and flowed between his fingers. Sand? So he was lying on his back, that much was sure, although little else could be. Why was there sand? He listened for the sea, but it was either not there, or was holding its breath.
With great labour he tilted his head to the left, the movement causing his brain to swill inside his hollow skull like water. Once his mind had settled into its new position he reopened his eyes in order to survey the latest vista offered to him.
Mountains frowned at him from the horizon, their faces squinting to make out the solitary figure lying face up in the sand; an intruder in this, their realm. It was their shadow that covered the desert when the fat orange sun set behind them and their dominion went perpetually unchallenged. So who was this infiltrator? Who dares to come here and lounge in the sands with not a care in the world? Did he not know that this country was mountain kingdom? A place where such slovenly behaviour was held in the highest contempt.
From what he could see, the sun was in transit, the tangerine glow of the sky was evidence enough of that... But up or down? Was he gazing into the east or the west? Time will tell, he supposed, but he needed a new activity to pass said time. After much silent deliberation he decided to try and roll his head across to the right but after several moments of excruciating effort he was once again facing skywards and possessed not the energy to continue his rotation.
Instead he endeavoured upon a new quest, he decided to attempt to speak. Not with any intent to communicate (he was quite certain he was alone in this place) rather to ascertain whether his vocal chords had failed him as well as his muscles.
“Where am I?” Was all he could muster before bidding consciousness goodbye as it left him once more.
This is but the newest layer.
Remnants of the archaic
Sprout up through cracks in the new.
Like weeds in God’s patio.
Trendy flats and
Yuppie bars fail to mask
The throbbing pulse of a living place steeped
in a history
That locals would rather hide.
But here and there,
It breaks through.
Redundant watchtowers survey
Whilst exhausted gargoyles stand guard
Against evil spirits long since retired.
Behind the tourist façade
You can count back the years
Like the rings of a tree.
Shells of industry, scraped empty and left
Hollow and daubed
With the anonymous signatures
Of those who are yet to forget.
I walk here; Not as a native,
But a denizen nonetheless.
This place of three years exile
Has become home.
And I feel as much a part of it
As the ancient walls that once defended it.
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
I remember walking down to the lake with Gus. The snow had fallen over night and was still gently swirling in the air around us. Gus was a big dog. He stood well over six feet on his hind legs, and his belly easily cleared three feet when he was on all fours. The snow was up above his belly, and he had to plow through it. He loved it.
As we made our way toward the lake’s edge, I gazed at the snow bedecked trees, their braches overfull and sagging heavily. This morning they had been spun of fine glass and were etched into the frosted air. It was as if they existed partly in my world and partly in a world of myth or fantasy. The word had become white and ice, and it was alive with a crystalline beauty.
Nothing moved except Gus and I as we wandered through a world that had transformed into something magic and fragile. He would occasionally bounce over a drift and fling the snow playfully at me with his hind feet, but mostly we walked and stopped to take in the fleeting beauty. Catching my breath and stealing it away to dance with the frost, the wind was our constant companion. It played with my hair and whispered of mysteries just out of reach.
by Ann Galvin, IUSB
Monday, 3 November 2008
I went down a street that I visited years ago that had gorgeous houses and a picturesque view of the ocean from their backyards. Kids used to play in the streets laughing and parents used to sit on the front porches chatting with neighbors. This time when I walked down the street I instead saw just the structures of these houses, furniture thrown on the front lawns, and FEMA trailers on some properties. The beautiful view of the ocean was overshadowed by the horrifying destruction that hit this street. On the walls or on the front doors of the houses there were spray painted numbers indicating the deaths of the people who lived there. One house read “3 dead and 1 dog”, which meant three people and one dog were found dead. It was hard to keep my composure and I began to hate the view of the ocean that lay before me. It was a constant reminder of why things were the way they were in New Orleans.
One of the last places I visited had to be in the car, so I went for a drive. The highway that leads right into the city was one of the ways that the water from the levees spread so fast. As I drove along I saw the water damage on the dividers and on the trees that surrounded the highway. When the first levy had given way for the water to invade the city of New Orleans, there were some cars on the road with people in them. I tried to imagine what these people were thinking of when they saw millions of gallons of water approaching them, but I did not want to picture it. It was unimaginable.
This city was full of sorrow and of destruction. Even in November of 2005, not much had been done to help the people of New Orleans. The area that once was full of happiness, music, culture, and life was now full of damage, death, sadness, and quiet. Hurricane Katrina had taken its power to the fullest extent on this city and it would be a long time before it would ever be the same.
By Victoria Ebbinghousen of SPC
Photo by Carmin Aguiles
This is a local Egyptian place near campus. On any given day you can spot some of the English Club members, as well as other SPC students puffing away hookah or munching on pitas and hummus. Our goal is to get Dr. Wifall to come along with us. We have not figured out how to yet, but a plan is in the works.
Please feel free to add your stories here.
Friday, 31 October 2008
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
Back: Ryan, Kerri, Jordan, Jennifer, John, Ben, and Mitch (two thumbs up!)
Front: Lorinda, Marian, Laura, Ann
Who are you?
Our class of fiction writers came up with a number of questions that we hope the DMU and St. Peter's students will answer. We'll ask just a few here for starters, and we hope you'll post your answers in the comments box (until we figure out a better way to do it). And we'll write in too.
a. What are the differences between the perceptions and realities of your home city/state/country?
b. What do you like to read? And what do you have to read for literature/writing courses? (And do British students have to read as much American lit as we have to read British?)
c. How much and where have you traveled?
Please post responses in the comments box!
Sunday, 26 October 2008
(My favorite piece of work from under the bridge. Thanks to someone I wish I knew.)
-Saint Peters College
Saturday, 25 October 2008
~ Laura Fox, IUSB
Friday, 24 October 2008
AP of DMU
putting out the artifice of
once powerful against
the black of night,
there will be a burst,
a furious hive
by little more than instinct
and robotic necessity.
And when the white and blue,
appears at last,
there will be quiet,
stillness in the gardens
of worker bees,
in a morning breeze,
to a music unheard,
with notes of love,
with the people gone
and the houses vacant,
And when the amber returns,
the sky blackens,
these glowing windows,
to flickering shadows,
behind thin cloth,
and casual gestures
tawdry curtains drawn
on the amateur theatre.
Maria Taylor, UK
Thursday, 23 October 2008
My mind slowly wakes and before me all appears
As it was when I drifted into peace the previous night,
But more vivid now
It's illuminated under a new day's winter light.
Outside the morning's grey and veiled with a mist,
Someone calls my name, but this comfort I can't resist.
This rectangle of rest: pillows, quilts and sheets,
My ever ready friend, my weariness it defeats.
The simple smell of fresh linen, another reason to not part
With this perfect nest, from which every morning must start.
Engulfed between these covers I hear the rain turn to hail
And smile to myself because I know now I will fail
To leave this protection against winter weather
And the cold.
This cocoon in which I hide,
Where I'll stay until I'm old.
A.Fearn of DMU
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
Whenever one of the twelve families in our apartment complex had the moving company in to pack up their belongings (and being in the military, we all moved every three years) some of the other families would take the children from the complex to Rough River Dam State Resort. The moves were planned to occur during the summer so that the children’s school year was not interrupted. That meant that Rough River Dam State Resort was always green and steamy when we visited. The boughs of huge trees gave some shade from the sun whose rays streamed through like a sieve. We were sent as a group to play in the stream while the parents cooked hot dogs and hamburgers and put out chips, mustard, catsup and cokes. We were warned to stay in the area as the river was rough up and downstream.
There were a few big boulders to be seen above water, but the river bottom was made up of many small smooth pebbles in innumerable shades of brown, grey and cream, and soft squishy sand. The water was always cold and clear. We started out in sneakers, wading into the water and standing around testing it out. Before long, the sneakers were thrown up onto the bank and we were barefoot, looking for pebbles to take home as mementos of the day. If the day was very, very warm a brave few sat down in the stream and let the cold water gently push past. On rare occasions very tiny fish could be seen nearer the banks. Experience had taught that they were also very fast.
I have never tried to find that spot again. I think it resides best in my memory.
~ Marian Zuehlke, IUSB
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
The day would pass, full of ice cold cokes, more than enough candy, and all the swimming and sand bar football a human body can handle. When that would get boring, the jet ski was fired up, and I would run the hell out of it, throwing 360’s at top speed, doing everything in my power to get myself in a situation where I would fall. This however, hardly happened. If careers were built on jet ski skill I wouldn’t be in college today. My fiancé, though she hates swimming, would be right there with me, through it all, smiling as she mostly sat and watched as I ran around the lake with enough energy to power Chicago for a week.
Then, as it got dark, everyone there would tell me it’s time for a bonfire, and I would go around looking for magazines that no one will ever read, and I’d give them to my cousin to crumple up while I took my brother and fiancé to an undisclosed spot in the truck to go get a hidden stash of firewood back in the woods. The ice cold cokes were replaced by ice cold beer, and the bonfire would bring out conversations which had a depth that a philosophy class could only hope to match. I would be the last one to go to sleep when the fire and the conversation died down, because times like those are ones that I never want to end.
and i slip into a dream
in an alley by an auburn brick wall
and you lean up against me.
your fingers were mine,
and your eyes and your pain
and we were the same.
and i'm not quite sure
which one of us
was the intoxicated one.
i always felt drunk
but i never touched the stuff.
now i know why i cried back then.
that time, when nothing was wrong.
i cried then
the way that i can't now
because you froze me.
claire genevieve, dmu.
Monday, 20 October 2008
Mississippi – the place known to the rest of the United States as backwoods; the place I must now seek medical care for my infant daughter from an unknown doctor and unknown hospital. I have no idea which physician should be trusted with the care of my child, so I call the insurance company to get a reference. At least, it is better than playing Russian roulette with the phone book. Then, I arrive and there is an institutional feel to the multi-story building built in the late 70’s. I wait in a line surrounded by working-class people sitting in molded plastic institutional chairs. The baby in my arms does not move except for shallow breathing.
The doctor is warm and friendly. He lays the baby on the table. Her stomach sags skin. Is that normal? – he asks. No – I reply, shocked that I missed this new feature. Suddenly, undressed, she spews a puddle of diarrhea across the examining table. Sorry, sorry – I say embarrassed. Don’t worry about it – he says and calls the nurse in to take a sample. The diagnosis is dehydration from Rotavirus.
The hospital is warm and welcoming. A café surrounded by plants is located in its center. The food is delicious. My husband and I discuss what to do with our two boys. Why do our vacations always begin with someone getting sick? – he asks, vowing to never travel again.
They place my daughter in a jail-like crib and connect her to IVs. I am stationed on a fold out bed next to her. Nurses check frequently to see if I am comfortable. They allow me to hold my daughter as often as I want. My husband and boys visit the Civil War battlefield, a miniature museum, and an old mansion. I do not get to see all this history, but I find myself drawn to watching the local public access station on the television. Better than a reality show because it is real, Vicksburg city council records and airs its meetings. I watch captivated with the public complaints and the mayor’s attempts to deal with them. During the day, I learn tips on transplanting clippings and watch an exercise program at the senior center. I feel I am a part of local life.
Over the next two days, my daughter gains strength. She gains weight. The doctor visits and tells us he will keep her and extra day to make sure she does not start again further down the road. When we check out of the hospital, we visit the first Coke factory and another mansion with a cannonball still stuck in the wall. The boys are thrilled and fascinated, but I am relieved. I will always remember Vicksburg for the great medical care, kind hospital staff, and interesting city council meetings. More importantly, I will remember Vicksburg for healing my child despite the rest of the nation’s prejudice against Mississippi. What tourist attractions can compare with that?
~ Jennifer Reinoehl, IUSB
Sunday, 19 October 2008
The kind that could not be defined by mere words and puzzles.
A place where earthquakes die.
Where fate vomits its contents onto the misery of life.
A place where hope is lost for some,
Yet found for others within the dreams of passed souls.
She found solace in the idea of love,
Ease in being held by the chains of passion.
Then she found love was a myth mimicking truth,
The journey she had taken was false,
She had been trapped within a labyrinth of emotions.
Now she could not retrace her steps.
It was madness that had brought her here,
The kind that consumes you until you are nothing,
Making you question your whole being,
Leaving you as nothing but an idea in the mind of others.
Thursday, 16 October 2008
The boughs, twisted like caked with morning frost
Spiral overhead in snowflake mazes
A thousand piece jigsaw with no edges
Dead leaves whirl in forgotten corners
Knocked loose by the endless harvest
Left to rot in the Indian Summer
No sunset for the Orchard
Where fruit is always in season
So starting at the end makes sense.
The light has departed without a goodbye and,
Within seconds, the night has arrived without an invitation.
My mind is blanker than a clean page.
Here I am, guilty without being charged,
Without one knowing what I have committed.
I didn’t have time to correct but I still made mistakes.
That dark place surrounds me like a claustrophobic surrounded by walls.
As the minutes pass I know what to be expecting,
But for now, during these hours that darkness talks to me,
The night’s silence is the loudest form of communication.
I am shadow of death.
I cannot accept innocence.
That guilty conscious won’t allow to me
I am liable for the murder of time.
POEM – GUILTY CONSCIOUS
BY RAMAIZE ATIQUE DMU UNIVERSITY,
Stone cold temple,
Voices long dead echo on the inside.
Enclosed and isolated
Screeching metal reverberates off the outside.
A place for tramps and stoners
Waiting for something to change or happen.
A sanctuary of old
Submerged in a city it does not know.
Decay takes time
But time takes eternity
Once you become obsolete.
C. Stevens DMU
Half cast the globe Rolls
Around its invisible polls,
Sweeping clouds build
They cloak the world.
Watching a flock of birds crowd the air for space-
As though there weren’t enough.
Old memories: shine on like the shimmering shoals shifting through
The water rolling gently over the stones,
Dappled in leaf shadow.
Illuminates, Moon light glows and half the world rests
Whilst the other Flows.
With brisk wind brushing the grass,
The fields from the hills,
Sparrows swoop and drop
Depths unseen that no one knows.
It all reminds me
There is no certainty.
But there is Beauty.
Russ Staples DMU.
‘Is it easy for someone to be trapped here?’ thought Shona.
For the past few moments Shona had taken several swirled looks at the houses, the trees and the ground that were collected together to form a crooked street.
Snow had fallen leaving a layer on the ground, fine and delicate. Any footstep that Shona made, her regulated print would appear, along with a crack that would run for several centimetres to the side.
Usually on the road that the street connects to would be full of hasten and panic that only traffic could create. Now there was nothing.
With tiny flecks of snow still falling at a quiet pace, Shona somehow didn’t feel alone.
This was strange. She had come to the street to be by herself.
To get some measure of warm feeling running through her blood again Shona had to run. There was contentment for cold weather in her, but not today. Not in this street.
Sprinkling snow upwards from her kicking feet there was now a nightmarish appearance to her surroundings.
It was cut off...cutting off from any other part of the world. The street had two openings and now both of them had a large air-filled sheet of film, rising from the ground and blurring whatever was meant to be on the other side of it.
Around her the trees, although remaining still were growing longer and more twisted branches, some reaching into the sky, the others pointing to what Shona horrifyingly imagined as her chest.
The number of surrounding large houses gave barely any comfort. Each window in every one of them held a heavy white curtain. To Shona it was clear that no one was to so much as peek out. There was no one to do so.
Seeking some warmth Shona stepped up to the nearest tree. It was the closest thing that was alive.
Almost hugging it but coming to her senses, Shona then skipped a couple of steps around the tree. All of a sudden the roughed, bumped patterns of the dark white bark, sending scratched warmth to her fingers. It wasn’t complete reassurance, but it helped.
‘Why am I alone?’ thought Shona. ‘There’s nothing here to scare me and yet...
Her thought ended as a clear ‘SQUAWK’ noise sounded above.
Shona’s head snapped up and her eyes saw what was against the white and grey fogged sky.
A quick flick of beats and Shona’s eyes swept immediately to the bird that had made the noise seconds before.
Trying to smile Shona looked at the bird, now gliding with ease across the high air.
‘And what am I to do?’ she asked out loud. She didn’t shout, but the snow’s conjured silence had pressed her voice to be expanded.
Dedicated to a girl who may not realise how magical she is. Her name's Shona.
Man made you
Just to be
And so I wonder
When was I
By this mechanical Eden?
Without a soul
And no door to walk inside,
I am sheltered
Within this paradise
By Louise Holt, De Montfort University, Leicester
I can almost smell the cold.
A light mist I can hide behind.
It is violating, probing
And yet it belongs here
Here, where men and boys
Lived, slept, fought, died
All those years ago.
It's almost gone now -
The trenches overgrown;
The scarred ground long since scabbed over and healed.
It's beautiful, revered.
The haunting memorial towers over eveything;
Birdsong chirps as it did then
But other than that...
Hushed voices whisper above
Rows of neat, white graves.
A sign of respect
All we can give now.
by Samantha Pavely, De Montfort University, Leicester, England
flowers so fresh they look fake
is one of the things that helps to make
this journey nice to take
and the sunlight in the morning
makes the city look quite pretty
but nobody ever really looks
and that is such a pity.
by hayley, de montfort university
Let it go on an adventure,
if only for a second.
What do you want from reading this poem?
To allow your eyes to close--
And slip far away,
into this thing you people call…
What do you call it
when, just as you fall asleep,
you become someone
or something else
with a new name
with a new everything?
At the end of this night, you’ll drift off.
Fade away and enter a whole new world,
where every thought has chance to escape.
This is a dream…
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
I have to say that this blog connection feels destined. I was first put in contact with Jonathan Taylor while I was visiting my grandparents in New Jersey, which happens to be my favorite state-I-don't-live-in. Jonathan was already in touch with Rachel at St. Peter's in NJ. My parents were born and raised and married in Rahway, NJ, where I spent many days riding my bike around the neighborhood pretending to be one of the Charlie's Angels. My grandparents currently live in Barnegat, NJ (near Long Beach Island), and almost all my cousins and extended family live in NJ. I go there at least twice a year.
But when I "met" Jonathan, I was also on the cusp of my first visit to the UK! I spent nearly a week in London this summer before and after a visit to Norway, where my grandfather was born. While Norway was exhilarating in terms of familial connections, London was full of literary connections (you should have seen me dragging my sister to Virginia Woolf homes and haunts). So this summer has been very much about "place" in general--and about NJ and the UK in particular.
My students and fellow writers at IU South Bend will soon begin posting their work to the blog. I've enjoyed the work already posted, and look forward to getting to share this experience with all of you. Here are a couple pics of South Bend:
This is the building where the English Department is located.
And this is a pedestrian bridge that connects the campus of IU South Bend to new student housing on the other side. Apartments with a river view!
Here's me with Hans Christian Andersen in Copenhagen, Denmark in August.
You can find more info and pics at the IU South Bend Creative Writing blog: www.iusbcreativewriting.wordpress.com
Friday, 10 October 2008
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Seven Eighty Seven and the Bologna Sandwhiches
Sitting on the familiar chairs, I found myself unable to accept that it was the last time I would ever eat a sandwich in that kitchen. I have eaten many sandwiches in that kitchen and most of them I had taken for granted. I suppose a lot of people would take something like a sandwich for granted. But if we think about how much else we take for granted – time, people, relationships, love – the simple, often overlooked things become embossed with importance.
The last sandwich…
I took one, careful bite. I instantly recalled summer lunches on the back picnic benches, my Pop singing while scooping out vanilla ice cream and dropping it all on the floor, blowing bubbles off the porch, making Jello in funny little cups with Grandma, drawing with chalk on the slab of concrete in the back and mowing the lawn with the old- fashioned lawn mower that I was too proud to admit I couldn’t handle when I was nine years old. Being in the house is like stepping backwards to a warmer, happier time. The memories held within the walls of this house are ones I know I won’t ever release, but I will forever mourn the end of their making.
Sleeping over the house was a big deal when I was young. We would play on the stairs for hours. They were covered with green carpet and were perfect pretend mountains. We would play in the pantry cupboard with a collection of toy dishes and other little things my grandparents had collected and kept over the years. Playing restaurant was something we took very seriously – the adults humored us by making very complicated orders (except for my Pop who always ordered steak and eggs). We got to take baths in the big, old, claw-foot tub complete with an old floating toy ship and a little man who would sink to the bottom of the tub if he fell overboard. Afterwards, my grandma would let me use her expensive dusting powder and I always felt like a very sophisticated lady. I slept in my mom’s old bedroom and would try to imagine what she must have been like as a child, until I fell asleep.
New Years Eve was quite the holiday for us growing up. It was the one night a year we were allowed to stay up so late, the one night a year when we ate our dinner after midnight, and the one night we were encouraged to make as much noise as we possibly could. Since we’ve grown up and gone our own ways, we grandkids have all found different ways to celebrate the New Year. But every December 31st spent ringing it in another way has felt empty and hollow. By some divine chance, I decided to stop by the house this past year on my way to my New Year’s party – the last year in the old brown recliner with noisemakers and funny paper hats.
The sandwiches were alright. My grandma made the best sandwiches in the world. It’s kind of a funny thing to say I suppose. I mean, a sandwich is a sandwich. But there was just something about them that tasted different, that tasted like love and home. When I was little, I told her I thought it was because she aged the bologna for just the right amount of time. She brought it up every time she made me a sandwich after that (and even sometimes when she wasn’t making one) and it always made her laugh.
I stopped for a moment to breathe deeply. It always struck me how certain places have a very distinct smell that is impossible to place and just as impossible to forget. If somebody asked me to describe the smell of the house, I would not be able to. It just smells like 787 Lake Street has always smelled. When hit by the smell walking into the house that night, I half expected my grandma to be standing in the hall to greet me.
But she wasn’t, and she won’t be again. The funeral was the next morning and she would pass this cove of memory – the contents of a whole life well lived – for the last time. I’d never felt so tired. I realized I had started to cry.
And I took the last bite.
- Elizabeth Lodato, St. Peter's College. Jersey City, NJ.