In response to these troubled times, The Oxford Blue culture team has started a new creative writing project: ‘CREATIVITY IN CRISIS: a writing collective’.

Here are some of our favourites of the work we received, illustrated by Dali Dunn.  

What isn’t weird at the moment? – Maddy Ross

I look at myself critically in the mirror. A single hair falls from my eyebrow. Now it is on the floor. What does this mean? Am I disintegrating, or is it that I have only just woken up and my eyes are heavy with sleep? 

I call my grandmother. She talks and I listen. I sigh. She is deaf to my suffering. She keeps talking, loudly, because she can’t judge the volume for herself anymore.

My Dad sits in his chair and talks. He talks, and I listen through the doorway, listfully. He used to work away, but now he is here. He used to work away and we talked more then. But now he says words like synchronicity and I don’t want to know him.

I stare out of the window. I watch my elderly neighbours. They are old. They saw the war. It isn’t their entire personalities, but it is mostly what they talk about nowadays. If they died, house prices would go down.

My sister is like a ghost. But louder and more annoying. And also I can see her, and sometimes she touches me. I wish she would follow social distancing guidelines more carefully.

My friend brings cakes. They are cold because they were put in the fridge. Why would you put cake in the fridge? This seems wrong. The icing hurts my teeth. She sits outside.

Sometimes people send me things. Online. Pictures. Usually with writing on them. I don’t know why they do this. I hold down the image and put a squinty face. I hope this communicates my confusion.

I keep getting emails from a university. I don’t really know what a vice-chancellor is, but she is called Louise. I know this because her name is at the bottom. I also get emails from LinkedIn. People want to make connections with me, but I think that’s disgusting.

My brother is nocturnal. He is like a bat. Somebody ate a bat, but I don’t know why you would want to eat my brother. He is thirteen, and he smells.

The blond man is back on the television. They say he had a baby. I wonder if it was a surprise. He didn’t look very pregnant. Maybe that’s why he is so stressed. I hope they called it something sensible. 

There are birds in the roof. I hear them because that is where I live. Sometimes they land on the window and it makes a scratchy sound. It sounds like the noise in my head when I watch the news.

People talk to me when I go for a walk. They smile and wait for me to go past. Have I suddenly grown an extra limb? Does everybody have a dog?

Sometimes I wear odd clothes. If there is nobody to see me wearing a dress, did it ever happen? I spin around to make my skirt fan out. I put my pyjamas back on. The word pyjama came from India. 

A Philosophy of Rain – Peter Hurtubise

‘‘Creativity is a secular infinity.’

Ben Okri

Grey daubs drenched streets.
The Jardin des Tuileries
feels the cool spaces.
What does it mean to hear silence?
Black umbrellas sprout
from the still, subtle shadows
between the rounded forests
and the green turfs, gleaming
between the verdant brush.
Yet the gentle puddles recall
sweeping strokes of clouds.
Watercolour pavements become
thresholds of dreaming notes
and raindrops conduct
the memories of Chopin.
Dark blue woods line the Seine.
The branches filter haze,
as the soft embrace of black
paint feels the pink cement.
Soaring steeples of St. Clotilde rise
as silhouettes of no reflection,
only wisping recollections
nudging distance into resurrection.
So the shade strings strides
as beads of rains stream
upon open boulevards and aged woods.
Upon the scrolls of strolls unrolled
 the listening Linden trees bend
atop the light winds
arching across the unseen
cathedrals of Rue de Rivoli.

Dandelion – Rachel Jung

Dandelion, two hours ago
my breath took away your white plume
and now we’re sitting next to each other
in silence (of course)
because you can’t speak and I 
have nothing to say.
The sun is pouring through the trees
like orange juice,
and the day has been long and hot
so we’ll sit here a little longer
in a tunnel roofed by trees
while caterpillars on strings, 
early Christmas ornaments,
wriggle patterns in my hair.
I’m sorry that I did that to you earlier.
I was a different person and now I’m not.
Heady with the smell of summer grass,
bleach-green, swimming-pool chlorine,
I made a wish, dandelion, but it was silly of me.
It didn’t come true anyway.

Nature, Unbound. – Amira Izhar 

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure. 
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?”
- Prometheus Unbound, P. B. Shelley. 
We stood for centuries watching soil 
boiling, Bubbling mud, undulating 
weeds twisting And wilting purple. We 
watched with our Acetate eyes, glazed with saccharine hope,
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever!  

I wiped the water that danced down 
her Blushed cheek, stained longing
 for liberty, My mistress Nature’s Soul 
was unbinding, And mine feeble arms 
couldn’t contain it. Ah me! alas, pain, 
pain ever, for ever!  

All fertile fields, orchards, meadows, now barren, 
All rivers of rose carcasses, the stench 
Of their dying breath sweetly kissing the 
Densest, stale Air. Their lungs surrendered - 
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever!  

Nature galloped into the charred 
blackness, Her pale limbs now wiped 
sooty with debris I could only hold 
myself and watch on; Cursing the foul 
destruction of our World. Ah me! alas, 
pain, pain ever, for ever! 

Where do the squirrels go? – Luke Bateman 

Where do the squirrels go?
As I stand at the sink amidst washing up,
I become transfixed by a rodent’s japes.
My eyes follow a squirrel over the garage roof
And through its pathway of intricate escapes.
A leap to the shed roof,
A dalliance of PEACOCK GLORY on the garden fence.
And then... well, from then where hence?
I cannot follow beyond the verdant foliage
And into the realm of beast and sprite.
Beyond the shimmer of rustling leaves,
I’m forbidden from that emerald night.
What wonders await upon the branches?
Nested castles and whiskered balls?
Is the squirrel a furred courtier,
Does he parade his grandeur through lamplit halls?
What queens and popes does he pay the heed
Of his acorn tithe and magnolia quarry?
If challenged to a duel amongst the roots,
Does his pawed swordsmanship make rivals sorry?
And down amongst the detritus of fallen twig,
where beetles cavort with worm and frog,
Do aspirants stare at interwoven heaven
And wish, like bird, to ascend up the log?
Or is this all a flight of fancy,
A mere muse as thin as this dishwash water?
As I scrub the pots I realise idle daydreams
To sanity and health are bricks and mortar.

If you wish to be published in next week’s edition, submit your work to the link below:

Gaia Clark Nevola

Gaia Clark Nevola (she/ they) was the Senior Editor for Culture from June 2020 to March 2021 and is now the paper's welfare officer and a member of the board. She is in her second year studying English at St. Catz where they are also LGBTQ+ welfare rep. Gaia is the Bi Rep on the SU LGBTQ+ Campaign committee and sometimes does costumes for student theatre. She is the proud owner of a questionable mullet and enjoys telling people that she's actually half Italian, as though that constitutes having...