To My Past:

And just like a past lover, it remains so painfully silent

And though most days I am doing okay

Silence has a way of making for want.

 

Dear ex-home, please know that I’m doing well here

This city is so exhilarating and I’ve met a great many people

And seen a great many things.

I know your small mind would refuse this place’s magnitude

That’s why I left, do you remember?

It wasn’t on bad terms, and I am not bitter

But please, whatever you do,

Please do not invite me back with open arms

For my greatest fear is that I might sink into them

And never return.

 

I didn’t come to Chicago without first experiencing my share of loss in a number of ways. Some wounds are still fresh, some are scarred over and still tingle, like the scars on my body from the car crash I was in when I was 16. The concepts that Bradbury introduces in “The Lake” -nostalgia, loss, longing for the past, moving on with the future- are ones I’ve been exploring myself. It’s so easy to wish for the past, in all of its simplicity and ease. I read and reread an old journal I’ve had since I was a freshman often, letting myself laugh and cry with all of it. I go through and make notes on entries. I find myself often thinking, “If only I could go back…” which is one of those stereotypical thoughts that everyone’s therapist refutes with something about living in the moment. Even still, I wonder, how would I change my past?

Would my friend still had shot himself? Would my best friend stay in an abusive relationship for years? Would I have? If I could have my “Tally” back, if they would rise up from the waves and greet me like none of the pain happened, would it really be what I want? It’s more accurate that every single one of my Tallys -people or places or moments- belongs in the past where they fit. Those things that I long for because of their simplicity would feel hollow now; I’m not the same person as when we were together.

The past, like death, has a miraculous quality in which everything it touches never ages. Whether or not I would still take my past back for the sake of having it again is something I still don’t know the answer to, and sometimes fear, but I’m finding that life is anything but knowing what to do. Sometimes you have to drag yourself through the sand to the stranger waiting at the top of the hill. Sometimes the grass looks greener in the shade. Sometimes I like to believe that the stranger in front of me is better than the past rotting behind me.

(Madison Tozier/CoS Student)

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The Lake by Ray Bradbury

I never experienced the death of a childhood love in the way that the narrator of The Lake experienced it.

I didn’t have a sweetheart who went out too far into the water and drowned. I did know a girl named Megan, though, and I like to think I loved her in that same pure, youthful way that children are uniquely capable of. She caught my attention in Mr. Trinco’s third grade class. We sat on opposite sides of the classroom which meant that effectively, we were worlds apart.

For one assignment, we each had to take home a simple poem and practice reading it aloud before we’d take turns reading it to the class. We would be graded on the fluency and volume of our speech. I was a classic over-achiever and decided I’d memorize the poem, while Megan decided she’d sing it. I was taken. My heart broke for her, a little bit, when Mr. Trinco reminded her that her performance kind of missed the point of the assignment. So I took the next chance I had to talk to her: while running laps in gym class. Which was quite an undertaking, because she was fast and athletic while I was slow and fat. But we talked, and we hit it off immediately, and then we ate lunch together. Which was a big deal.

From then on, for two years of elementary school, we were inseparable. We spent as much time together as we could. We played at the playground on the weekends. We swam in her backyard pool. We ran across the field playing silly games at recess and holding hands. We made each other’s friends jealous. We wrote a love song together once.

She didn’t die or anything, but one day my mom took me out for ice cream and told me to get as much as I want. This meant the same thing it always means: bad news. We were moving, again, this time after just two years. I had to say goodbye to my teachers, my neighborhood friends, and most painfully, Megan.

Even though we said goodbye, we were never truly, fully apart. In the last years of elementary school, we talked on the phone at least a couple times a month. I’ve managed to visit her a few times over the years, and we still text occasionally, or talk on snapchat. Now that we’re adults, having been such close friends for nearly ten years, it’s a different relationship. We’re different people now, and we’re probably not ever going to be in an adult relationship or get married or anything like that. But we’ll still always have the memories of the love we shared as children.

I connected so deeply with The Lake not because of any depiction of childhood romance, but because of the way it shows how earthly places can be so strongly imbued with love and emotion. Whenever I pass through the old suburb I lived in then, all I can think about is Megan. Just like the beach where Tally and the narrator built sand castles.

(Lawson Smead/CoS Student)

When Things Get Sad For No Reason

Ray Bradbury, “when things get sad for no reason.”

For my response I’d like to write a poem.

 

Autumn is here.

When the leaves turn into rotten peaches and the winds cool up the beaches, autumn is here.

When the night arrives in the day and lights begin to fade, autumn is here.

When steel parks turn cold and everything is in the shade, autumn is here.

When the mist masks the roads and blocks the sun out like an ex-boyfriend on Facebook, autumn is here.

When the spooks arrive and tree branches collide, autumn is here.

When your knuckles turn ashy and the wind hits your dry skin, you might need lotion but that could also mean autumn is here.

When the gates of hell open once again and you are late to class because you have not slept right all summer, autumn is here.

When the beaches are empty and the coffee shops are packed, autumn is here.

When the sleeveless shirts grow sleeves and the pumpkins get stacked, autumn is here.

When the corn turns into candy, the squirrels get cranky, the dirt gets nasty, and the streets look like Gotham alleys, autumn is here.

When your playlist gets sad and the weather outside gets sad too, autumn is here.

When grandma bakes you cookies and you skate in hoodies with your crew, autumn is here.

When you write a dull poem for a homework assignment because you can’t think of anything, that’s on you.

Autumn is here and autumn is ready, there is vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti.

 

In all seriousness though I agree with what Bradbury said about “things getting sad for no reason” and by that he means the start of autumn. Summer is the time for joy and happiness, it’s like that aunt you have that’s always hugging the family members and buying gifts for them and then there is her kid who wears all black and sits on the couch with his phone out and he does not say a word. You can enjoy autumn because it is a beautiful time but the presence of that specific season does give off a depressing vibe because if the weather and themes like Halloween. Autumn is sad boi season.

(Bratt Chavez/CoS Student)

Fall, Again

As the warm summer days slowly slip from our grasp and the slight chill enters the air, it has become time to start drinking our coffees hot rather than on ice.

The storefronts put away the cardboard suns and the swimsuit sales begin filling the racks alongside the warm cotton sweaters. For many, Fall is the time to reminisce on the year and all the creative works we cherish, from movies to incredible stories passed around campfires. For my family, the tradition of snuggling up on the couch and watching the Wizard of Oz has always been our introduction to my favorite season. It was to my happy surprise that we got to read this week an excerpt from L. Frank Baum’s most notable story, a text that has become a worldwide favorite. L. Frank Baum’s work has inspired many, showing the power of Chicago literature as just the foundation to incredible stories. As Halloween approaches and children begin to scramble to find their costumes, his timeless characters, ones that defy the obstacles set before them, are placed on the top of the list.

I’ve always aspired to be like Dorothy, to channel her childish awe and to never let anything stand in the way of what I want. A characteristic I’m sure my family wanted to install in me from such a young age, never holding me down from using my curious mind and letting me run with my creativity. Like Dorothy, I too have just recently been picked up by a twister taking me far from home, as Chicago is far from Myrtle Beach and definitely not Kansas. I even took my little dog too, with this new magical city around me I’m on my path down the yellow brick road.

(Savannah Fleury/CoS Student)

As an immigrant who has moved quite a few times, I believe that Chicago is now a place that I can call home. Well, not exactly Chicago. I’m from the suburbs and I’m not going to be fake and lie about it, but I know that this city (in my backyard) has definitely shaped the way I’ve grown up. I think both Aleksandar Hemon and I find these quirky little things about this city that aren’t traditionally positive— “the torments of the hot summer are now over, the cold torments of the winter have not begun” (Hemon 158)—  but then find the good in it— “Early September anyplace in the city […] everything and everyone appears better, all the edges softened” (158). In a way, it’s like a pretty thing buried under the smell of dank alleyways that line the streets, the blood that’s been caked on its name by the media, and the general grime of city-life. I myself, despite having to wake up every morning as the sun is just barely rising, think one thought as I tap my U-Pass at Howard Station.

Chicago is beautiful.

And reading the words of this writer made me feel this strange kind of warmth in my heart. I felt I was reading the words of someone who truly, ardently loved and continues to love this city, despite what is said about it. The author, in his list of 20 things, mentions not just the touristy city spots (note that The Bean isn’t mentioned here at all!) but the habits of the people, the weather, and the natural landscape. He writes about the true components that breathe life into this city which create that “river of red and river of white flowing in opposite directions on Lake Shore Drive” (161) and the picture of “human solidarity enforced by the cruelty of nature” made by huddling commuters in the middle of winter— Chicagoans.

I feel blessed to (perhaps) count myself as one of them. (Shane Tolentino/ Student)

tolentino-picture-1.jpeg

The beautiful in the not-so ordinary: Chicagoans at the Cubs World Series Parade

Reasons Why I Left Miami Beach, But Why I Now Appreciate Miami Beach:

A Response to “Reasons Why I Do Not Wish to Leave Chicago: An Incomplete Random List”

1. While reading “Reasons Why I Do Not Wish To Leave Chicago: An Incomplete Random List” I found myself thinking about how much I want to experience all the things Aleksandar Hemon was writing about. I wanted to go see the downtown skyline at night from the Adler Planetarium and to see the beautifully described river of red and river of white on Lake Shore Drive.

2. Hemon very beautifully described a city that either is overshadowed by the way media portrays the city and the violence happening in the city, or Cloud Gate and the Cubs. Although Cloud Gate and the Cubs are great (at this point I would like to clarify how little I know about baseball but I’m in Chicago now so Goooo Cubssss!) but there’s so much more to Chicago and Hemon perfectly captures that. He doesn’t go for the most obvious things that you would consider beautiful but instead focuses on the small beauties of the city that most people wouldn’t notice.

3. While Hemon was talking about Chicago I kept thinking about Miami Beach. Although I was born in Bogota, Colombia my hometown is Miami Beach, Florida (#305!) When I moved to Chicago I was super excited to be away from Miami Beach but I guess the saying you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone (shoutout to Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi) is very true.

4. I especially appreciate Miami Beach when I tell people I’m from there they get super excited and ask me how it was like growing up there. At first I would say it’s not as cool it sounds but as I was looking at pictures and me growing up I see things differently. I have become more grateful at my circumstances especially after hearing the places where other people grew up.

5. I also miss that in Miami I knew where everything was but here I feel like a rat in a maze and I’m slowly (slow being the key word) finding my way through the city. Mainly I navigate by following a crowd of obvious Columbia students heading to events or having friends who are from here and act as a guide.

6. I also will probably miss the warmth of Miami Beach during the winter when I’m waddling to class in 50 layers and a blanket that will make me appear homeless but at least I can collect some spare change on my way to and from class.

7. But in all seriousness I’m glad I left Miami Beach because I knew I had to break free from my comfort zone and pursue my love in a city where theatre is actually flourishing. But after reading Hemon’s list I also need to remember what I left behind and the beauty and simplicity of Miami Beach.

(Daniela Monico/ CoS Student)

Softness & The City

There are small yellow flowers that sometimes break open parking lot pavement, stretching upward and arching their frail green backs towards the geometry of the city.

Light falls onto the thin finger-shaped leaves of the flowers in rectangles, which are cut and defined by the buildings and the relativity of their positioning against the the sun. Here architecture plays with shadows, shaping puppets that spin too slowly for us to notice, dancing clockwise, growing and shrinking throughout the duration of the day. Apartment complexes make the most underappreciated sundials, the sidewalk-goers blissfully unaware of the retail worker living on the 12th floor, leaning against the screen door of her kitchen, sucking on a cigarette and waiting for a call, tenderly opening a tin of cat food, and in response to the noise of the tin lid popping open- an excited purr channels from the living room, and those are the only sounds that fill the one-bathroom, one-bedroom apartment on a weekday night.

Ladan Osman proves that to be a poet in Chicago, is to be the softness of the city. The honey poured into a ceramic coffee cup, or the warm, glowing blush of two lovers linked by hands, standing side by side on the corner of a busy street, waiting for the moment to be given permission to cross, each step bringing them a little closer to home, where they’ll pull each other’s sweaters up over their dizzy heads, and fall back into the comfort of bed. These are the kinds of things poets embody.

Ladan Osman does this wonderfully, knitting work that adheres to the senses, plump with both detail and storytelling, allowing readers glimpses into her experiences influenced by Chicago. Giving them a sense of nostalgia to memories that they themselves do not possess.

Ladan Osman sets off an inspirational tick to dive into the city headfirst as a poet. To be a poet in the city is to be able to pull prose and poetry from the gum stuck under park benches and the sticky handprints on cafe windows left by small bewildered children. To be able to romanticize every bend and twist the city takes. To be a poet in the city is to be as long lasting as a map of the stars. Stars don’t really change, but as a planet we shift our positioning ever so slightly in the expanse of space that it tilts our perspective of them throughout time. Some stars become more visible in certain hours and seasons. While others fade out into the night, still there nonetheless, but fogged by light years of distance or the angling of pine trees’ silhouettes. To be a poet in the city is to be immortalized, tacked to a framework of curiosity and worn-out shoe soles, beaten from chasing shadows through parking lots, being careful not to step on the small yellow flowers that live to taste the sun.

(Archie Budzar/Cos Student)

At Least a Little Local

As I write this, I am sitting on a bench next to the lake, facing Buckingham Fountain. The setting sun glares into my eyes, and as the air coming off the lake is biting my nose, my senses are bombarded by a multitude of people.

Most of them look to be locals passing through, although, as I have only been living in the city for almost two weeks now, most people are more local that I am. Even though I do not know Chicago like some of these people, I can still relate to the Chicago that Aleksandar Hemon describes in his, Reasons why I do not wish to leave Chicago: An Incomplete, Random List. The, “Chicago cool” as he calls it is illustrated beautifully by his thoughtful descriptions of simple moments of city life. His so-called, “Random List” is a perfectly effective way for him to get his point across; it translates as the laid-back, everyday, unrestrained truth that reflects Chicago itself in its most intimate moments. While I don’t know Chicago like he does, I am slowly getting there. The last two years before moving here I lived in Indianapolis, so, although Chicago is significantly larger, I find that the city life still suits me. Chicago is already starting to feel a little like home to me as I become more comfortable with the idea of being surrounded by others constantly. All around me the city is bustling with action. In front of me, groups of 3 or more people on blue rentable bikes whiz by, laughing and yelling, “Pedal! Pedal! Pedal faster!” at each other. Young families push strollers along the water as the occasional seagull caws down at us. This is the Chicago summer that Hemon speaks of in #12, where, “beaches are full of families”. On this concrete beach, many people, both young and old, tourists and locals, have their phones out taking pictures of both the lake and the fountain. Boats pass by in the water, the inhabitants watching us, and us watching them. Although, as a pair of young girls comes and sits on a bench beside me I wonder if I look at all ‘like a local’ as these girls certainly do not. They not-so-quietly whisper, and then one of them jumps up onto the bench and starts to sing, “Summer lovin’ had me a blaaast” she belted out, off key. The shop owner to the left of them is within seconds yelling at them, “Get down! What the hell are you doing?” Giggling, the girl gets down, realizing that they failed to create a scene of any sort. They remind me of #13 in Hemon’s list, a description of, “highly muggable suburbanites (…) oblivious to the city beyond the shopping and entertainment areas;”. While these girls get up and walk off to continue their day elsewhere, I hope that I’m at least a little more local than them, deciding to continue my day here, with my laptop, by the lakeside.

(Sadie Benning/Cos Student)

Poetry has always struck a chord within me. It’s a different form of expression shown in a sort of kaleidoscope of words all cascading on to paper.

Something about it shows a sense of rawness of one’s mind. When I read “Ordinary Heaven” from Ladan Osman’s assortment of poems, I interpreted it as an homage to the “what if” concept. Obviously other people might have a different view as to what this poem means to them, but that to me is the most beautiful thing about poetry. The doll in the poem seemed to be an image of ourselves. It’s as if these questions and commands that were asked of the doll, were ones we often ask ourselves. Almost demanding the doll to “be” reminded me of my intrinsic motivation to want to do more, whether it be reaching a goal, following a dream, or speaking for something I believe in. It’s the frustration of wanting to accomplish many things, but dealing with the inner fear that’s holding us back. It’s when we as humans question the mystery of life itself. It’s like in the poem when she starts asking things like, “What is love?” or “Does the sea favor its roar or murmur?” but the doll doesn’t answer. We’re constantly waiting for something or someone to tell us what to do, or why things are the way they are. This poem inspires me to be fearless. It reminds me that I must stop asking the what ifs, and go out into the world to find answers. “You witness but don’t testify.” The ending remark arguing, what I think to be, one of the pressing issues with us today. We get inspired every day. We see and hear things that make us want to create and speak our minds, but most times we get scared of getting lost in the noise. We hold back our thoughts that could possibly change the world. I wanted to include this picture that I took, the other day when I ventured out into the city, to my response. I saw a mother and her two children staring out at the gorgeous Lake Michigan waters. Something about them looked as if they were looking at all the possibilities this universe has to offer. When I was reading this poem in its inspiring fashion, I immediately thought about this picture. Every individual has the chance to do something remarkable. Something I need to remember as I face every new day. The world can change if we get up and take it by storm

(Sophia Alonzo/CoS Student) 

A List Of Reasons I Chose Chicago

Have you ever had a dream?

Something you wanted so badly it burned deep inside you until it became an all consuming blaze that makes you want to scream? An inferno of need, to do something, say something, create something! For eighteen years of my short life I sat in a boring town where it seemed like you passed a fake artist every minute. Someone waiting for the right time. The right opportunity. The right person to kick them in the ass and jump start their career. I felt like I was drowning in streets that lead to dead ends and burning alive inside with this desperation to create anything! By the time it came to choose a college, I knew I couldn’t stay in Saint Louis and soon I found myself imagining life in the Windy City. So, here is a list of reasons why I came to Chicago and why I might not ever leave:

  1. We the people of Chicago know how to love and love fully. We don’t just love the spring or the summer. We love the harsh winter and the chilling winds of fall. We love the good, the bad and the ugly and test that love everyday. We love all of our neighbors, even those we don’t understand or disagree with. We accept and love them all.
  2. There is art literally on every corner. Back home, graffiti and street art were painted over and ignored. Here we admire them, post them, tweet them, and hang them on the sides of our schools.
  3. No one is alone. The Midwest is often accredited with it’s almost southern charm and hospitality but in places like Saint Louis, you feel the iciness under every pleasantry. You get this itch that maybe you’re not as wanted as they claim. In Chicago, you are who you are. Love it or hate it. You don’t have to fake or give up pieces of yourself to fit the mold and be “accepted”.
  4. Everyone and everyone’s grandma know each other back home. Saint Louis is called the small town of big cities because everyone gets trapped there for one reason or another. I was so terrified that if I didn’t leave when I did, I would be confined by the invisible glass bubble that traps hopeful young artists in the claws of the city.
  5. You don’t have to “earn your keep”. You made it here. That is enough. Now show us what you can do.

Chicago is misunderstood, people think of it as this brutal bleeding heart of passion and chaos but in all honesty Chicago is a hub of creation. It sets standards for the rest of the country and embraces even the things we don’t love about each other or ourselves. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than Chicago. It is the New American Dream, the one my classmates and I see in our heads and that is why I am proud of my decision to embrace Chicago.

(De’Ja Williams/CoS Student)