- Student Life
Sisyphus, the SLUH Magazine of Literature and Art, recently published the 2019 winter issue. It features stories, poems, personal essays, drawings and photographs from students, faculty and staff at SLUH. Flip through the pages and enjoy the ride! (Click in middle of publication below for full screen.)
Here are a few select pieces from Sisyphus followed by a video highlighting our fine arts program that was recently unveiled to the Class of 2023.
Andrew Wilson '19
Begrudgingly, he staggered to her level,
and, just as a naked chick bursts through its shell,
emerging from its tacet, sterile womb
into a sun uncaring of virgin eyes,
stumbling onto hesitant legs which
for the first time feel their own weight,
shaking the gloopy albumen from its drenched, delicate skin,
squirming and wriggling through the dirt in glorious naïveté,
he began to dance.
Seasons, photographs by Prep News 83 editors
Padraic Riordan '19
This poem is based on the story of the Mongol siege of the then Persian, now Iranian, city of Ray (pronounced “rye”). Upon realizing they were being attacked, the people of Ray split into two factions: those who wished to fight the Mongols and those who wished to surrender, hoping the Mongols might spare them if they did. Before the Mongols even breached the walls, the citizens all but eradicated each other, but those favoring surrender won out. Subotai, the Mongol general, saw this and promptly decapitated all the survivors.
When the horizon vanishes under hoof and foot,
When the sky is snuffed out by arrow fire,
And when the rising sun in the east reveals itself, a demon on horseback,
the people of Ray understand this simple truth:
They will die.
The inevitable invaders first annex their hearts and minds.
The population crumbles before a single brick falls from the walls.
How will they respond to the horde at their doorstep?
How can they face the apocalypse come in the form of not four,
but thousands of horsemen?
The people, like a pack of starving wolves
Circled around a carcass they don’t realize has been picked clean,
They convince themselves of the old lie:
That they can survive.
But as the wolves dance around a skeleton,
They quarrel over who shall have the first bite.
Over how they shall find their way to a feast,
A feast that never existed.
Brother against brother, city against city,
they tear into each other,
all humanity sacrificed
in the foolish hope of retaining it.
And when the battle ends,
When the foolish few call themselves
Lucky and victorious,
The horde breaks through the gates
And they all die anyway.
We live in Ray.
We stand just inside the gates,
gates we know will not hold.
But rather than face the coming threat,
our swords fall upon each other,
and the horde, the plague, the war,
wins his siege again and again and again.
Watercolors by Jackson DuCharme '20
Life in a Dreary Time
Brian Jakubik ‘20
Nonfiction essay about Brian's immigrant parents' amazing search for a birthing hospital in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001.
At the dark onset of morning, before the sun appeared on the horizon and brought light to the commotion down below and eventually the mayhem above, there was kicking. Me. In Ivana’s womb, kicking and trying to find a way out of the bloody enclosed space that had been my home for nine months.
She jolted awake into the eerie silence that had befallen downtown Manhattan; when even the lamp posts, the sole source of light, were empty of the gray moths’ touch and buzzing chirp. The labor, the noise, the seemingly impossible path to climb: America was not what they had expected it to be so far. This was no different.
“It’s happening,” Ivana whispered, breaking the silence.
“Him. I think my water is breaking.” She pointed to her bulging stomach that I would not occupy for more than a day longer.
Her husband, Marian, was now used to these occurrences. He turned over on the lumpy, hardened mattress, causing the aged wire bed frame to creak and emit a sound that resembled nails on chalkboard. Their first child was supposed to have been born three days earlier, and the boy’s indecisiveness about whether or not to emerge from his mother’s womb had caused several recent scares. Marian had been in America for six years, Ivana for eight, and throughout this time, they had only known a life of sweat dripping down their faces with little time to make up for their hard work. He worked as a carpenter, using his Czechoslovakian trade school education to attempt living in a city loaded with carpenters. She worked long hours at various retail marketplaces, ones where employees would writhe with soreness in their arms and legs while receiving unfair wages after each and every single day. Paradise to them was the ability to come home to their hostel and use the few hours that they had in the dark outdoors to converse with their new friends in the dimly lit, spider-web-filled, and crumbling lounge.
Marian eventually made a decision: “Let’s wait a little, see if it’s just a false warning.”
I have always known the connotation surrounding my birthdate. I would often be questioned on my parents’ feelings or the nuts-and-bolts of my birth, but there is no emotional connection that resonates within me. Frankly, I don’t go on walks and talk with my parents about what happened on the day of September 11, 2001. That date is already the conversation at least once every single year in the patriotic realm of America. My parents are riders of the present and future. They hide the details of their life before I was born in the way that people hide their prized possessions: in concealed thoughts, like a safe that requires the right key to unlock. They clearly do remember their past, but in attempting to pick the locks to their childhood and early adulthood, I am met with only the present and future to look towards. Often I have the privilege to learn vague details through conversation, but I don’t know of their learning moments or moral lessons. My parents provide mere detail, but I seek meaning.
As silence reconvened on the uncomfortable bed, she turned over to her left and back several times with her hand resting on her stomach. She attempted to bring herself up to sit on the bed multiple times, but she could only surrender back down onto the bed, a seemingly electric shock pulsing across her entire body causing a sting of pain every single time.
“This will be a long day,” she whispered to herself as she returned to her slumber.
As Ivana and her husband entered a taxi cab, she observed that the once silent cityscape now bustled with the sounds of colleagues chatting as they perused the city streets in business casual attire, with locally brewed coffee in plastic cups locked in their palms. It was about half an hour after United Airlines Flight 175 had crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Ivana had experienced contractions since awakening earlier that morning. She adjusted her legs and got as comfortable as she could in the small yellow cab while her husband dialed the directory telephone number for Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan, fifteen minutes away. Cars had piled up on the roads as fear and confusion set in. After an hour, they had barely moved. Left on hold for the entire time, an attendant finally picked up on the other end. Marian was able to ask the question that they dreaded asking on that fateful Tuesday.
“Are you able to have my wife come in? She’s in labor we believe,” he said quickly with a thick Slovak accent, trying to avoid getting put on hold again.
“Spots are filling up extremely quickly. Get here as fast as possible.”
Ivana had mustered up the strength to yell thanks as they hung up the call and began to approach the hospital. The stress of the situation had begun to make her skull throb. To add to everything, this was the closest hospital to the World Trade Center. She envisioned walking in with her husband to see a ramshackle, improvised morgue, with not much distinction between the living and the dead in the lobby filled with portable beds of bloodied, burned, confused, broken people. As she nearly vomited the contents of her breakfast onto the seat of the taxicab, he motioned the driver to keep going. After about twenty minutes, they pulled up close to the hospital’s front entrance, with Marian tipping the young man, a fellow immigrant, who had been their driver. As they entered the mayhem, they were immediately told that there would not be room. Given a map to Long Island Jewish Hospital, Ivana gasped knowing that, in regular conditions, this was an hour-long drive. Fortunately, their cab driver still had not left his spot outside the hospital.
The drive to Long Island ended up taking six hours, which meant that my mother remained in labor for over twelve hours before she was even admitted into a hospital bed. As I sat on a leather living-room couch with her sixteen years later, far away from the urban monstrosity of New York City, my mother recounted that although she had fallen asleep for most of the ride, the sound of the metropolis soon switched from one of pure fear and loud confusion to a strangely silent grief. But the expanse of vehicles on the road did not change, and everyone had pressed their ears close to the raspy sound waves coming out of their car radios for updates. I had held on the whole time, refusing to let myself enter the world until soon after midnight, where I was born without any complications in a quiet hospital. Unsurprisingly, this story has held on through time. If I had not held on in my mother’s womb on the day of the terrorist attacks, my birth may have taken place in a taxicab and been even more difficult for my mother.
I have held onto priorities, onto friends, onto faith, and so much more for seventeen years. My family has held on through major bumps in our relationships, through living a world away from close relatives and friends. My parents both held on through the arduous process of acclimating to and making a good living for themselves in America.
“But life never stops. We will keep holding on,” my mother tells me.