Sunday, 16 November 2008

Smoky Mountains

My parents took me to the Smoky Mountains when I was 9 years old. I remember getting out of the car and tipping my head back so far to look at the looming pyramids that I could feel the pockets of skin wrinkle on the back of my neck. Our cabin was dark and dusty and nestled at the foot of the mountains. Through our red fabric window-coverings we could see the small town laid out before us.

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

Untitled Work In Progress.

He opened his eyes and was greeted by the sky. A sky deeper and wider than any he had seen before. Impossibly vast and richly orange, streaked with crimson wounds, as if scarred by the claws of some colossal beast.
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.

Jack McManus

God's Patio

The city is ancient
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 fa├žade
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.

Jack McManus

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Gus and Snow

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.

As we cleared the trees, we were not greeted by the familiar sight of the water. It had been covered by a vast blanket of snow. This great plain of virgin snow had stolen the lake. Nothing stirred on that plain and the wind hurtled across it and howled a lonely wail.

by Ann Galvin, IUSB

Monday, 3 November 2008

Damage, Death, Sadness and Quiet in New Orleans, Louisiana

In November of 2005 I took a horrifying walk through the devastated city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina had hit. One of the first things that I noticed was that there were not as many people around when I last visited. The city used to be lively and full of happy people, but this time the few people I saw were just focused on getting through another difficult day. The streets lay quiet and full of the depreciation of businesses that once were bustling with customers. As I walked along, I saw that the water damage was definitely eminent in certain areas. There were water lines on the structures of buildings and on the exposed walls of residential housing. The air even smelt of mildew. Walking further, I became aware of all the garbage piled on corners and on the front lawns of houses. People were outside trying to pick through it all to see if anything of value had been thrown away.

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


142 Vroom St., Jersey City

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.