Iowa Writes


The center is a question without an answer that feeds itself forever. Thirty square miles of cornrows obscure the center, ensconced by seventy-five miles of barbed wire fence. For three years I've been circling the fence. At one point, to pass the time, I tried to build a machine to distill water out of the only materials available to me: a cardboard box, copper tubing that I coiled by hand, an oscillating fan and a desk drawer. Today I passed the sun-bleached remains of that attempt, one junk-filled drawer that had composed the machine's container. Seeing the desk drawer, ruined and dislodged, took me back to a moment in my youth when the desk, once my mother's desk, was whole in my childhood bedroom. I had received a kitten for Christmas that I named General. In one of the desk drawers, I made General a bed, using my receiving blanket and a doll pillow. As a girl, I was fond of small habitations: cabins, cottages, sheds, camping tents. I was particularly fond of doors that slid shut rather than slammed. When I laid General upon her bed, I wanted to give General a capsule of rest, a door that slid rather than slammed, I wanted to give General my own dreams. There was a final meow, or perhaps no meow as I slid the drawer closed and general lifted her small head to look out and we were both innocent then as the drawer snapped her neck. Some scientists say we should call the universe a multiverse, because rather than stretching forever, galaxies are stacked like drawers. Holding warm limp General tiny in my tiny hands I was staring at the center, it was a free-fall, there was no ground and I began to cry, I cried until somebody heard me, until my mother's arms hugged around me, the closest ring, and I was a center who for a moment had her horizon. Seeing these ruins stops me in my tracks. My work is the most dangerous kind in the world, trying to perfect nature, measuring ends and diameters, seeking epicenters. Even remembering breaking the General's neck makes me feel more alive.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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Chelsea Cox wrote this short essay on a boat between two islands in the Philippines as a participant in the University of Iowa's Overseas Writing Workshop. She is in her final year in the Nonfiction Writing Program.

This page was first displayed
on December 14, 2011

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