Decisions on the Cultural Heritage Project by Gemma Collins

With the new semester just beginning, the start of the fiction unit draws near. This year CW 1 is starting off the fiction unit with the sophomore cultural heritage lessons. These lessons, carefully planned and culminated over the entire past semester, are crucial parts of the preparedness for CW 2. As of the past Thursday, the presentations have started. I spent a large portion of my time this winter break editing and perfecting my own lesson plan and coming up with my best idea on what to teach the group about. This was a daunting decision, considering that for most of the year, I was wavering between different subjects to talk about and contemplating what I thought would provide the most educational yet enthralling lesson. 

When thinking about my culture, the foundation of the assignment, I found myself coming up blank. The presentation is centered around talking about ourselves, something I am not used to doing. The freedom of subjects to discuss was both freeing and confusing, as with the ability to pursue multiple ideas comes the dreaded need to make decisions for oneself. I never felt connected to any specific background, so when deciding my topic for my project, I decided to steer clear of the “culture/race/ethnicity” genre and into other possibilities.

Then there were the options of music, but I am definitely not the most musical person. I spent winter break going back and forth until I finally solidified my idea. I thought about what I felt passionate about and began my project on environmentalist poems. The best plan I could muster, I found poems to use and began to build my powerpoint complete with writing prompts and a homework assignment all based on poems that make a call to action. Soon my presentation was complete and I just needed to survive the presentation. 

A poem that I wrote while working on my project:

A Walk

I don’t know that I’ll be alive
If the world is run hot and dry,
Like a desert with a red sky.
A red sky that possibly in the far reaches
Of the atmosphere has one breath that
Escaped my mouth when things were 
Green for a little longer.

I am here now in a little longer.

When things were green.
How long a little longer is, I’m unsure.
I’m going on a walk today to
Appreciate a the green
Although I admit it will be hard not to be 
Distracted by crusty gum on the sidewalk
Or sewage smell at the bottom
Of the hill. 
But the walk is meant to be appreciative, so
I better not get hung up on 
undeniable bad things. 

I run my fingertips in the rosemary bush
Which I haven’t done in a while. 
I may not know how long a little longer is
But I know a while is 5 years.
5 years but the fresh scent is still as sweet
As my memory of it.
I hear two parrots squawk
In the tree above me, dropping red berries.
Their noise isn’t exactly pleasant, but
I find some joy in the raining red berries.
I wish it still rained.

Reach the top of the hill and look out at the view—
Bunny shaped clouds and
shimmery water and small waves
the rolling hills 

Can’t forget the city
Downtown buildings twinkle
I can almost feel the hot glittering
Sidewalk,
I look out at the view.

In the corner of my eye

I see the red rolling in.

Gemma Collins, Class of ’23

Daily Thoughts by Gemma Collins

As sophomore year has progressed, I find myself in a perpetual state of confusion. Lately, I ponder what I am doing and what is happening. This feeling has become familiar, as I wait for it to greet me in waking from many daydreams. One question that has recently been frequenting my mind is this: “how did I get here?” An enigma in itself, this thought plagues me, seeping into my head and infiltrating my dreams. The other night I even dreamt of a talking fish, and if that’s not bewildering enough, I do not know what is. I may not be a psychologist, but I would assume this thought comes from a jumbled sense of time. See, each month feels long in the moment, but short in retrospect, and spending most of my time at home causes the hours to blend together, leaving the all but delicious stone soup of my lovely days. The first semester’s end looms, however, I barely remember the beginning months of this school year, hence the question: how did I get here? Still not sure. 

This question emerges occasionally throughout my day in various scenarios, including walking into a room and forgetting my tasks, or waking up and momentarily forgetting where I am before realizing I just had unexpectedly fallen asleep. In these common situations, my memory and logic return soon and the moment of confusion is fleeting, leaving me without much to wonder anymore. Pondering how I am suddenly half-way through sophomore year has proven to be much more difficult to answer. Lately, academic shortcomings provide an exhilarating sense of risk factor that enhances my life, filling the gaps created by my questions. Creative Writing functions as one of those high stakes things that allows me to devote my attention to currently overflowing assignments instead of exploring the ins and outs of existential questions. The question: “how did I get here?” is hauntingly unresolved, however, now I figure it is merely one more item to add to my list of thoughts to attend to at midnight.

Gemma Collins (Class of ’23)

Witchcraft and Creepy Statues: a Freshman’s First Reading by Gemma Collins

Never before I got into Creative Writing did I actively go to readings. It was a foreign concept until about last week when I pulled up Green Apple Book’s website and picked the soonest reading. It didn’t matter to me the book or the author, I simply intended to go, watch, and go home.

It was 6:30 pm after school on a Tuesday, and I pushed away my sleepiness and headed to Green Apple. The book Initiated: Memoir of a Witch by Amanda Yates Garcia was displayed all over the store. Ready to take notes, I pulled out my notebook and pencil. When the author came out and sat on the little stool in front of a microphone, I realized I wouldn’t be taking notes. I would be watching intently. She brought with her a small altar, on it was an age stained doily, a pomegranate, a few crystals, a statue of the goddess of Crete, and elusive essential oils.

Fascinated and slightly confused, I couldn’t help but ask what the items were. She looked curious about my question, possibly because everyone else at the reading was an adult, but then told me the items were passed down from her ancestors and brought peace and balance. The author then asked the audience to hum and clap to the rhythm of our heartbeats. This, she said, was an exercise to show how humans are connected by our hearts.

I was surprised at how interactive the reading was, and I was slightly unsettled. Witchcraft, similar to readings, is another unexplored realm to me. The room vibrated with the audience’s humming, and I too, attempted to join after the shock of the cult-like exercise settled in and I had violently scribbled out some notes.

When I returned home afterward, I no longer thought of readings as chores and dreaded tasks. The interactive style gave me excitement for my next reading. Inspired by the witchy and Halloween theme, I wrote a short poem:

Halloween

When the sun sinks into the horizon along the tops of city building

We swiftly grab bags and head out the door,

Elaborate costumes on our backs.

 

Throughout the night,

Our bags are weighed down with candy,

Snickers and gummy bears and Twix and lollypops.

Littered among them

Empty wrappers of the sweets we eat while walking.

 

When we get back home

We sit cross-legged on the floor and dump each bag over the hardwood,

Hard candies clinking together.

Hours later, piles of our sorted candies make tripping hazards around the house.

We lie,

Costumes crushed under us

The sugar crash has struck.

 

-Gemma Collins, class of 2023