Category Archives: Student Work

Invisible Cities Project

Here begins the chapter of fourteen new cities written by the students in my 2013-14 Sophomore Literature and Composition class for Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities. The cities are hyperlinked together from blog to blog to create a continuous path for the reader.

You will find the first city HERE.

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Cities and Origins

by Grant D. ’16
          The following city is one I will never forget. I was packed in with a group of people so tight that the only place for air was when I cocked my head back to look up at the dark sky above me. I was shoeless and all I could make out was the dirt in which I was traveling on. It took countless hours to get out of the mob I was traveling in but when I finally escaped, Nirvana lifted me up off of the ground. I was engulfed in a parched breeze of air, one I had not been familiar with. There were no Brobdingnagian buildings nor sleek sky skyscrapers. Instead, the city appeared to have been built by the  ancient egyptians themselves. In the distance, a band played loud music which followed a man and woman who were casually laughing and singing along under a big white textile square supported by four sticks being held by different men. Lengthy, massive yellowish walls protected the city that seemed to be filled with men in green uniforms, guns strapped to their chests. 
       
        An unfamiliar language was vocalized throughout the city, one that was spoken quickly and sang beautifully. I happened to be there on a friday which did me no good when an ear piercing alarm sang throughout the city reverberating in my ear. Within the hour, every fruit stand, candy store, building, museum, restaurant, clothing store and mall completely shut down.
        
         My legs went numb from hiding in a long, rocky, dark ally for so long. Blue and white flags flapped around me which came from the upper portions of the ancient buildings. It was nearly an hour after the alarm when I noticed people casually walking about the streets. I questioned whether or not the piercing alarm was to caution the city people to take cover from a nearby attacker or not. Curled up in a ball, I wept until a young boy approached me. He seemed confident, so I took his hand and followed him. When we came out of the black ally, his family was waiting for us to get going. As we were walking, I noticed that the people around me all were wearing interesting clothing. Garments draped over their shoulders, black suits, and the most fascinating was the tall black hats the old bearded men wore. The children seemed to be neophytes to the hat wearing trade so instead they wore circle like caps on theirs. 
         
         Walking with the family, I noticed candles glowing in the windows of low ceilinged houses, men holding books, leaning forward and backward in a repetition like movement. We approached an enormous gray wall, where thousands of people were standing, instantly the boy’s sister and mother fled elsewhere as we carried on with just us men. Moving about the masses of bearded men all wearing ridiculously tall, black hats, I took in the scenery once more. This city was unlike any city I had ever been too. In the distance, a massive golden dome stood erect in position, sitting upon a blue and white ceramics tiled building. Cats prancing about the dusty streets and an overall underlying relaxed feeling began to move throughout the people surrounding me. As I approached the wall, I noticed something peculiar, where the cracks diverged the ancient stones, thousands of pieces of paper were jammed into the last possible spot available. I felt out of touch, lost, and dumbfounded, I understood to some degree that the people around me were human but I had no way of understanding them due to the language barrier. After countless attempts of asking the boy where we were, we collectively stopped asking each other questions in each other’s  foreign languages. I was swept up by the presence of God and calmly projected to the boy “hello,” just to see if he would magically respond to my strange language. He didn’t understand me, but I think what he said back meant hello in my language too; he replied “Shalom.”
“I never was told the name of that city, but I will never forget it, and if I were to ever return, its personifying life would remind me of my first expedition there. Alike to you and I, unfamiliar language did not deter me from connecting with the souls around me.”

 

Cities of the Morning

by Addy S. ’16

Now I must tell you of a city that sits in the windy shade of the mountains and burns in the glistening heat of the sun. Unlike most cities, this one is not frequently seen as an oasis to the weary traveller. It is a city that can only deteriorate as its inhabitants watch, helpless to those invisible powers that govern nature and their lives. The city of Dakota faces east, towards the bringer of its bounties, the source of its life, the burning flame that sears the brow with sweat and dries up every pool of water until the only sign of life that remains is the salty splash of the waves as they crash monotonously against the ever-receding shoreline.

This city does not measure time like most. It has a daytime, a darktime, and a nighttime. It is only during the daytime that any semblance of life can be glimpsed. The gold-tipped spires of the buildings glint as they catch the sun reflected off the sea. The waves of heat that ripple from the sand blur the vision until it appears as though the city ends in a shimmering wall. The daytime starts as soon as the first rays of sun send their warmth over the rolling waves. The men set out in their fishing boats, the children play in the sand or shriek with delight as the run through the breaking waves, and the women tend the small plots of earth that they have managed to cultivate in the sandy soil. Or sometimes there are expeditions up the precipitous slopes of the mountain to gather the berries that grow in clusters against the leaf-strewn ground. But as soon as the sun crosses the highest peak of the mountain, the streets, sordid with the garbage cast aside by the thousands who travel by twice every day, cools, for this city nestles gently against the base of the mountainous impasse. As the whole city is cast in shadow, the winds rise and they sweep along the shoreline, tattering open sails and overturning anything left to their mercy. The debris that cluttered the many winding avenues during the day is blown into heaps on street corners and in alleyways. There are not even lights on in houses, for the flame of the gas lamp or candle only gutters in the forceful gales of wind. This is a city that can live only in the early morning hours as the mist clears from the water and the dew seeps down into the occasional patch of dirt.

No one can understand why a city was built there. During the daytimes the inhabitants are plagued with insufferable heat. But when the sun is gone the winds begin to rise and all motion is forced to cease. Nothing can be built, for no sooner is the sun gone but the winds tear down the scaffolding and scatter the workman’s tools. Maybe at one time the mountains were not there or the sun followed a different path across the heavens. But if the city continues its existence the same as when I stumbled across it, soon the wind will grind away the walls of all the dwellings and there will be nothing left save the foundations buried deep beneath the sand.

To see the next city in our project, click HERE.

Cities and Zombies

by Alex L. ’16        

As you walk in what is known as the heart of the city, it looks the same as when you walk into the grey buildings that are made up of steel and bricks while the streets are made out of old cobbled stones. In the city of Palenthoria, the people cannot go beyond the walls of this metropolis for they are programmed to perform one specific job to maintain the solemn atmosphere of this war-stricken town.  The people stare with a blank expression on their faces since they can only focus on their task and nothing else. I learned this as I walked through the neatly pasted old stones cemented on the grounds when I asked a person on the street for directions to the upper east side of the city. He did not even move his head, but just kept focusing on his specific task.  His face was pale as a ghost, and his eyes were completely blood shot. There seemed to be no intellectual life or communication decipherable in the city. The walls defining the boundaries of this dreary fortress were impenetrable, prohibiting the exit of even the smallest of creatures. All the streets were exactly the same, and at night there were no signs of human life anywhere. There was absolutely no blue coloring in the sky or the sighting of the sun adding to the bleakness of this already sterile environment. Storm clouds followed every footstep that was made, leaving no hope for a silver lining to appear to save the city from these zombies.

To see the next city in our project, click HERE.