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FALL 2012 mark

bessen alizeh

iqbal kevin

Rouff alok

vaid-menon lilith

Wu

leland QUARTERLY


leland

QUARTERLY VOLUME 7, ISSUE 1 Fall 2012

Copyright 2012 by Leland Quarterly, Stanford University All Rights Reserved Giant Horse Printing, San Francisco Editors-in-Chief: Katie Wu and Brian Tich Senior Editors Rachel Kolb Antonia Madian Lilith Wu Associate Editors Chaz Curet Benjamin Pham Kunal Sangani Dylan Sweetwood Van Tran Joe Troderman Varun Kumar Vijay

Art Editors Lilith Wu Managing Editor Rachel Kolb Layout Editors Antonia Madian Lilith Wu Illustrators Stephanie Muscat Web Editor Tiffany Shih

Leland Quarterly: A Statement on Literature, Culture, Art, and Politics is a general interest magazine that showcases the very best in Stanford University undergraduate art and writing.

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E D I TO R ’ S N OT E Lately all I’ve been hearing about is endings. The end of my time here at Stanford. The end of relationships. The end of my term as editor-in-chief. The end of shows on television that should’ve been cancelled three seasons ago. It’s no surprise that I’ve been craving some beginnings. Around here, when people start things, they tend to finish them – or, at least, that’s the impression we like to give. We like to seem sure. We like to seem directed, purposeful, full of meaning. Changing our minds, switching courses of action, quitting a path – sometimes it all feels like admitting we’ve failed, or that we’ve wasted something precious. Time, maybe. I’ve always hated that phrase – the one about one door closing and another one opening. Wouldn’t it have been better to have just opened that second door first? But what might look, in retrospect, like a simple choice between two doors is never that black and white in the moment. Sure, we have endings in mind, and plans for getting there, but the only real thing in all of that is the journey. Rachel Kolb, trying to bring together her parents (and herself) as they used to be and as they are now. Kevin Rouff, challenging limited ideas of “home” as a fixed place. Lilith Wu, sharing the beautiful, frustrating process of creating art, from beginning to middle to… What I’m thinking is, a lot of the time, we expect too much of ourselves. We ask, “Why can’t I just have things figured out? Why can’t I just know what I want out of life?” But maybe the problem isn’t that we’re too myopic; maybe it’s that the grand finale we’ve been dreaming of wasn’t supposed to be clear and defined in the first place. I don’t live without regrets. I feel like it’s nearly impossible to. But I can at least appreciate where I’ve been and take comfort in the knowledge that however ubiquitous endings are, they will never be more numerous than beginnings. So maybe I did open the wrong door first. At least now I won’t be left wondering what was behind it. So, here it is. Another ending, wrapped up in a pretty little bow. But really, for you, for all of us, this can be a beginning – a good one. The beginning of this issue. The beginning of a year. The beginning of a new train of thought. And, I hope, the beginning of a good read. Don’t be afraid to pause; to let something make you laugh, or to let something surprise you. In the end, it might get you somewhere you didn’t even expect. — Katie Wu

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c ontents

editorial statement

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Artist ProfilES

Growing Pains Alok Vaid-Menon

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Kevin Rouff Photography

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Monsoon at Border Crossing Nina Foushee

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Derek Ouyang Photography

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Our Frog Seamus Alizeh Iqbal

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The New Year, a Sestina Savannah Kopp

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FICTION The Reptile Room Mark Bessen

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FEATURE

Non-fiction Elma, New York Rachel Kolb

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POETRY

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Progress is the Name of the Game Lilith Wu

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INK ON PAPER

FACULTY PROFILE Scott Hutchins: A Working Theory of Love Rachel Kolb

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PHOTOGRAPHY

Half Dome Nathan Golsham

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Spring Stream Nathan Golsham

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Kiev Brian Tich

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Sad Little Mermaid Lauren Youngsmith

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Squid Girl Lauren Youngsmith

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Water Worm Lauren Youngsmith

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AcRYLIC ON CAnvas Belladonna Lilith Wu

Cover

Ghost Lauren Youngsmith

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growing pains in third grade your english teacher tells you to stop plucking the hairs from your arm during class. you will go home and use wikipedia to diagnose yourself with trichotillomania — a compulsive urge to pull out one’s own hair — you have a chronic case. you, who sprout hairs above your mouth at eleven you will not remember the details: only the eyes, the white faces, the jealous boys, that photo of you sitting on the stairs in your aunt’s house the one you will show future lovers and ask: at what point do we change? when do our bodies betray us? can you help me forget? you remember the way you embraced your family: the edges of your sister’s razor in the shower: your armpits burn for weeks, there is a patch on your left ankle that will never grow back your father’s electric: you are thirteen and you are the first boy in your class to shave, and you will not let them forget it and you will tell them about the blood but you do not tell them about the tears, the pain of losing ‘boy’ and becoming ‘man’ the growing pains   wikipedia won’t let you edit the page, but you have learned that trichotillomania is a synonym for impatience, is a way to describe the man, the body pushing his way out of you from inside, is a way to describe those growing pains the scars underneath your armpits, the blood in the shower, the hairs sprinkled on your desk like a signature saying this is who we are: we who take growth in our own hands.   you burnt yourself last week and you cannot help but notice the patch of hair on your left leg the flames took with them, cannot help but smile when your nurse shaves your right thigh for your bandage 6

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these are the sacrifices a body must make for growing too fast, and sometimes you wonder if you caused the fire, and sometimes you wonder if you should have kept shaving and the hair keeps coming back, and the wounds keep throbbing, and the man inside keeps knocking, and you keep running and i have never been good at waiting, but i am seeing the way that my fingers are phoenixes, becoming touch again, with every tear and i am seeing the miracle of body, the way hair grows back scabs heal, lips kiss   and i have never been good at waiting, you see i have a chronic case of trichotillomania and i am used to pushing things out of me so they can’t hurt me anymore, which goes to say that, i am waiting for your phone call, i am waiting to touch you and find something salvageable in ‘man’ and ‘body’ i am waiting to hold you, so closely that you stop me from growing out of myself, and   i have never been good at waiting, but i am camped out here on this bed, in this city, with a photograph, a razor, a beard, a heart, a story, a ticking clock, growing pains, waiting for you — Alok Vaid-menon

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Riverbank Babas Artist Profile:

Kevin Rouff

My mother tells me I’ve always had an obsession with the people of the streets, the “nomads,” as we called them. I used to wonder where they all came from, and why my city specifically, only to sleep under a bridge and have countless shopping carts, family gas-guzzling cars, and bulging pockets tread incessantly by under their very noses. Nobody knew why; “They have no homes,” they’d say.

Everyone knew where the sadhus or babas came from: everywhere – anywhere – nowhere! Overseas—the location itself is irrelevant; let’s try to avoid the distance of something being “foreign”—I found a different situation. Everyone knew where the sadhus or babas came from: everywhere – anywhere – nowhere! Here, they lined the banks of the river, meditating, sipping chai, bathing, sleeping, licking melting popsicles, or just watching the incessant flow of water. These lives were not disdained or scoffed at, but rather the ease with which they beheld their nomadic lives provoked a reflective self-questioning in the others. Here they are, the nomads—not without a home.

All photographs in this series taken with a 1951 Rolleiflex Automat IV, using 120 film 8

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“Old Baba”

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“Bathing Baba” 10

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“Umbrella Baba” Leland Quarterly Fall 2012

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“Popsicle Baba” 12

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“Banyan Baba” Leland Quarterly Fall 2012

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— mark bessen

T

with illustrations by Stephanie Muscat

he chameleons are my favorite. Their toes turn outward, two to each side of a foot, and after a few seconds groping the air for a foothold, they latch securely around a synthetic branch a centimeter or so ahead. The chameleons sway slightly forward and back as they creep patiently along, attempting to match the swaying of the warm breeze they only experience during their daily appointments in outdoor enclosures; the rest of the time they are inside the house. Their two eyes protrude like volcanoes from the sides of their heads, twitching independently, constantly surveying and assessing their surroundings. The eyes only stop moving if there is danger or dinner in their periphery. There’s a common misconception that chameleons change color to blend in: in reality, they change color to stand out. Males switch wardrobes to indicate, “Hello, you appear fertile, let’s mate,” or “You should step back right now if you want to leave with that curlicue tail intact.” The two sunny shades of orange are unsurprisingly similar. 14

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I like the chameleons because they are so expressive. Speedy, the Nosey Be chameleon whose vivid turquoise coloration earned him the coveted spot in the upstairs living room, unashamedly bursts into blazing orange and crimson if he catches a glimpse through the window of a cute girl like Camille sunning herself on a twig outside on the balcony—even though females are consistently lackluster. Their spectrum only ranges from brownish pink to blackish brown, in contrast to the males’ flamboyant displays. When I was younger I used to imagine how convenient it would be if humans radiated emotions as colors, glowing orange when lecherous, blue when blue. Now I realize how annoying the world would be blinking feelings. But in the faux natural world of the Reptile Room, the inhabitants don’t complain. The chameleons are my father’s lovechildren with Medusa. So are the boa constrictors, the pythons, the bearded dragons, the leopard geckos, the tegus, the salvator water monitors, the corn snakes, the king snakes, the occasional Sulcata tortoises, the frogs, and all their permutations. The collection began when my older brother wanted to have a reptile-themed birthday party. My father asked the local pet store to put on a reptile show, and they agreed, thinking it a good idea to make a

buck by letting twenty 6-year-olds poke and prod the coldblooded animals. The most excited of the little boys was my father, who planted himself first in line to hold the monitor lizard. There’s a snapshot in the birthday photo album that shows the monitor giving my father a kiss on the cheek with its blue forked tongue. After that, my father bought two bearded dragons, a type of smaller lizard cousin, and from there they began to multiply (literally—those things procreate like rabbits). A couple years later, the reptiles occupied half of the garage; my father installed a partition and insulation so that the habitat could be climate controlled. The reptiles became a greater consideration than one might imagine. If we wanted to take a trip, my father would spend two hours enumerating careful instructions for a house sitter who soon regretted agreeing to the job for twenty dollars a day. When my family decided to look for a new house so that my siblings

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and I wouldn’t have to share a room, the realtors sometimes recoiled when my father asked if there was a large, open, concrete room on the property with good ventilation ducts and no windows. The house we moved to had a huge, cavernous space on the bottom story, and my father hired a construction company to haul out the

thousands of pounds of dirt that once heaped in earthy piles in the unfinished room. When it was completed, the room became affectionately (and later grudgingly) known as the Reptile Room. The Reptile Room is separated from the rest of the house by two doors with a cobweb-filled chamber in between, so that if a reptile escapes its enclosure, it has a harder time getting into the rest of the house. Inside— Go right in, kids. Sorry about the smell. I’ll clean up soon—there are stacks upon stacks of cages. Most are just heavy-duty plastic drawers with holes poked in them that slide into place with a hiss. Some have glass panels on the front, others wire mesh for residents that need better ventilation. The snakes huddle in the back corners of their enclosures, embracing the darkness, but the lizards press against glass or plastic walls, yearning for the beam of fluorescent light that usually means, “the crickets are coming.” There are always between sixty and eighty pairs of yellow eyes gleaming at you in the Reptile Room, with forty or so more developing behind leathery shells in the incubator in the corner. On the opposite side of the room is a floor-to-ceiling freezer with “Food” written on the front. Inside, there are hundreds of frozen rats and mice of varying sizes. The demographics of the Reptile Room fluctuate with my father’s interests and with the seasons. In the winter, the temperature is turned down so the snakes can hibernate comfortably; the lizards are temporarily moved into a back storage space. When I was ten, my father went through a Goliath toad phase, but they started to vomit up their digestive tracts in protest of their monotonous mealworm diets and soggy moss boxes. Then came the boa constrictors, and my father bred them to mix

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genomes and colors until he created the snow boa, whose graceful white coloration impressed his herpetologist friends. During my high school years, a quarter of the Reptile Room was dedicated to a habitat complete with a bathtub watering hole for my father’s beloved Salvador water monitor, the largest species of monitor you can legally own (Komodo dragons are considered too dangerous). He grew to six feet long and forty pounds before dying of an infection that swelled his four feet up to the size of softballs; it was brought on by the hygienic conditions inherent to captivity. Nowadays my father’s prize collection consists of dozens of spectacularly colored chameleons, whose bright Madagascan skin looks odd framed by concrete floors and drab grey walls coated with spider webs. Their cages have to be separated by panels so they don’t become territorial (unless they win one of three spots as decoration in other rooms in the house); in the wild they spread out to a much lower density than there is available in the Reptile Room. My father loves his reptiles. Every day after a long shift in the emergency room, he spends hours changing the liners to cages and defrosting mice to deceive the snakes into dinner. He medicalizes the hobby, as he did with fishing when he taught me to tie knots for sutures in the line while we waited for a fish to bite. Once, when a lizard was sick, he gave it an I.V. to pump it with fluids; another time, a Borneo python cut herself on a wire and my father stitched her up. When she died, he performed an autopsy before going back to his calculations about the new colors of boas he could engineer. I’m certain that my father spent more time with the reptiles than with any human. He nearly missed my brother’s high school graduation because he was monitoring Jacquie the Jackson’s chameleon to make sure she safely gave birth


to her twelve live-born babies. Jacquie had one baby, stepped forward a body length on her vine, and had another, over and over, until all twelve of the centimeterlong newborns precariously perched single-file on the vine. Jackson’s are the only chameleon species that skip the egg stage of development. He provides the reptiles with what they need to survive, and they return the favor. The Reptile Room has long been my father’s place in our home. If dinner table interactions get hot-blooded, he surrounds himself with his cold-bodied friends. They could level his temper better than my mother or I ever could growing up. When he goes through one of his periodic bouts of depression, he shelters with his pets to share their humidified air. He knows they depend on him; I think that makes him feel powerful, important. I settle for asking about gecko genetics and whether t h e

snakes are happy down there. They’re doing fine, don’t worry about them. They have what they need and do what they do. Pass me the forceps. That’s as much as I could ever coax out of him. My father started to spend a lot more time in the Reptile Room when my mother found all the empty liquor bottles behind his headboard. Don’t know how

those got there. The only two things he ever lied to my mother about: the bottles and the beasts, all snuck into the house in big brown paper bags, some clanking and some writhing. She tolerated both; I tolerated only the reptiles, protesting the drinking by pouring out all the booze I could find, hiding bottle openers, yelling at my father when his words slurred clumsily together. My mother just wrapped her arms around me and told me it wasn’t my place, so I let him stumble back to the Reptile Room to give his prizes their sustenance. When he came out with his arm dripping blood after carelessly letting it linger in an eight-foot boa’s cell too long, I went to my room and punched a hole in the wall. I wasn’t drinking, I promise. My mom patiently pulled the pointed teeth out of his flesh with surgical precision, and brought me the hydrogen peroxide for my knuckles; I didn’t tell her how I had gashed them. I went into the Reptile Room alone only once. The lights go out on a timer at 7 p.m., so it was dark, crickets chirped, bodies shuffled restlessly around. I didn’t stay there because the air was thick with the rank smell of an uneaten rat, too much life and death crammed into one concrete box. I was mad because my friend was coming over in an hour and the house smelled like reptiles (the Reptile Room unfortunately shares a ventilation system with the rest of the house). My father was conveniently blessed with an abysmal sense of smell, but my siblings and I had collectively moaned, “Dad, something’s dead” when we walked in the front door earlier that evening. My father had been drinking sake upstairs in bed, neglecting the bodies that needed his care. I wandered through the maze of cages with a flashlight, looking for the source of the stench. I cringed as I peered through the walls to find the resident king snakes trapped in their filth. A boa struck the glass to my left and I jumped back, tripping into a net of dusty cobwebs. My skin crawled, and the yellow eyes followed me longingly as I left the room, abandoning my search. I called my friend to ask if I could stay over at his house for the night instead. “I need to get out of the Reptile Room.”

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“Sad Little Mermaid,� Lauren Youngsmith Ink on paper

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“Squid Girl,” Lauren Youngsmith Ink on paper Leland Quarterly Fall 2012

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“Water Worm,� Lauren Youngsmith Ink on paper 20

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monsoon at border crossing we are a human wall gazing at our desert bride in her rain veil a man turns to my mother offers her a plastic bag for cover this is Mauss’s gift economy wordlessly we pass plastic bags our humanity thin, transparent but plastic bags take many human lifetimes to decompose in the desert all we can give, plastic as we marry, become mud

—NINA FOUSHEE

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Q : A &

T

— Rachel kolb

he Turing test, or a stratagem for determining machine from human intelligence, looms over Scott Hutchins’s new, widely acclaimed novel, A Working Theory of Love. Scott’s story centers on a divorced 36-year-old man who grapples with a

series of romantic relationships in San Francisco while he works in Silicon Valley, where he spends his days in conversation with the specter of his dead father, resurrected through diaries that are now being processed by a semi-sentient machine. The novel’s plot explores a set of binaries of which Alan Turing himself might have approved: not only between computer and human, but also between present and past, living and dead. Scott, a former Stegner fellow who teaches in Stanford’s creative writing program in addition to his pursuits as a working writer, took a few minutes from his schedule to discuss the intricacies of his new novel, humans and machines, and being a writer at Stanford.

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LQ: There seem to be many similarities between you and your protagonist, Neill Bassett. How did your past experiences inform how you wrote about Neill? Did they directly inspire your writing process? SH: Well, there are two answers to that question. One is that my past experiences and my current experiences did inform [Neill] in a kind of sociological way. So I was around men his age and was a man his age living in San Francisco. It’s a sort of dismissible time of life, and I was interested in writing about it in what I hope is a funny way, but a way with some depth. Also, I’m from Arkansas and I moved to California, so I drew in a lot of that biographical stuff. I did some of that deliberately. When I was a Stegner fellow here at Stanford, Tobias Wolff ’s wonderful novel Old School came out, and I read it, and the unnamed narrator of that book bears a lot of similarities to Tobias Wolff. He goes to a prep school. He ends up going into the military and going to Vietnam. So I read it thinking it was basically a kind of veiled autobiography, and I went into his office and was talking to him about it and it became clear to me that it wasn’t autobiography at all. It was a completely fictional work, but he had used certain things out of his own biography to give a kind of reality to that book. And I thought that that was a really interesting way to handle fiction and the writer’s life, so I took that for this book and used a similar approach. I think you treat your personal life as material just as disinterestedly as you would treat a story that happened to someone else that you think would move nicely into the narrative or would enrich the narrative or speak to the concerns of the book. So if something happens to you just take it, you move it in and you recast it. Nothing in the book is straight autobiography. There are events that happened to me, but they have a new emotional cast. Or there may be an emotional cast that has new events. [Using my life as writing material] makes me uncomfortable, and I think being uncomfortable is a good spot to be when you’re writing. LQ: Much of the novel consists of conversations between Neill Bassett and his father as channeled through a computer, known in the novel as Dr. Bassett. What went into writing these dialogue exchanges, versus the “normal” dialogue you might teach in one of your fiction workshops? SH: There are a few tricks with that. One is writing the dialogue between Neill and the computer is more like writing a play than it is writing dialogue. Because it’s all text chat, there are no gestures, there’s no moving around, there’s none of the physical things we can do as two humans in conversation. It has to come over all

through the words. It’s similar with a phone conversation and text messaging. People are writing novels now that have Facebook exchanges in them, so that’s something that I think is coming up more in contemporary fiction. But because one of the characters is not really there, that’s the thing that you have to deal with. And part of it I did with research. I worked with a lot of these chat box programs that are trying to imitate humans, and I saw how they handled conversation. The big challenge is what’s known as a “recursive conversation” where there will be something that’s brought up in Line 1 that’s brought up again in Line 6. And the computer has to know that that refers to Line 1, and that’s something that’s very challenging for computers, to have an understanding of context. So that’s where the conversation always goes off the rails with the computers. You can give them a question and they can answer that question often, but then you ask the next question and there’s just no way quite yet for them to know that that relates to this. And that was what I was playing with a lot. So part of it’s research, and part of it was just thinking about it [being] in some ways like a play. LQ: Following up on that, what are your thoughts on the nature of machine or human consciousness, especially as expressed through language? SH: Well, I’m interested in Ray Kurzweil, who’s a techno prophet for The Singularity, which is the moment when our souls, ourselves, will transfer from our mortal coil, our human bodies, onto silicon-based systems. And the basic argument behind that is that consciousness is basically a series of software programs running on the hardware of our bodies and brains. The parallel between that and how the way a computer works is fairly clear. They are essentially analogous. So if you accept those arguments then the only reason that we can’t transfer from one to the other is technological… I’m not sure I believe that, but I thought it was an interesting idea for the novel, so I was willing to entertain the notion. We don’t understand, I think, enough about what we really are to make that assumption. But I don’t have any bulletproof arguments to shoot it down. It seems it has strong logic behind it. I think that the novel does a much better job, or writing does a much better job, of trying to pose the questions than it does to kind of come down on one side or the other of one of these debates. So I was more interested in posing the questions as well as I could rather than saying: I believe The Singularity is going to happen. I don’t know. What do I know? LQ: The humanities and the Silicon Valley tech world coincide in this novel, as they often also do at Stanford. Leland Quarterly Fall 2012

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How did you decide to explore this juncture? Any thoughts on Stanford as a sort of “Tech U”? SH: I’ve always been interested in science and philosophical questions around science. But I think the tech issue, in particular, is something that’s come about from my time at Stanford, where I’ve seen those as kind of opposed cultures, but they do talk to each other. I have students who are brilliant computer scientists who are also very good writers, and I’m interested in how they come together and how narrative speaks to tech, and how tech speaks to narrative. I think you see that in the novel, that those two are of interest to me. The techie/fuzzy divide on campus is real. But I don’t think it’s exclusive and I don’t think the university tilts heavily towards one or the other. LQ: You came to Stanford first as a Stegner Fellow, then stayed on as a lecturer. How has the University’s creative writing program shaped your development as a writer? SH: Well, it’s shaped me enormously as a writer, partially through its high standards. When you come as a Stegner Fellow you suddenly are sitting at the table with some good writers and you have to raise your game to feel like you’re a part of that conversation. I’ve studied with Tobias Wolff and Elizabeth Tallent. Both had a huge effect on my writing over the years. And I’ve also made a lot of friends. Working with the students has had a big effect. I’ve had to talk, I’ve had to codify what I believe, and talk about what I believe, and defend what I believe, because the Stanford students will ask you again. If you’re not clear they’ll say, “What is that?” They’ll make sure that you’re not just talking off the top of your head. I think I came to Stanford as a writer. I have become a more capable writer since I’ve been here. But I think I really became a teacher at Stanford. It’s informed my writing, in part, because when you’re teaching you have to deal with a lot of different aesthetics at the table, and you have to think not, “How do I make that story more like a story I would write?” but you think, “How can I make that story its best self?” I think that really requires you to be objective in a subjective realm. So what makes a story good and what makes it bad is subjective, but you have to really look at the story on its own terms, and that’s something teaching has really taught me. LQ: What about the Bay Area as a whole? Many reviewers have commented on the vibrant sense of place you capture in A Working Theory of Love. How important is that physical location to your subject matter? SH: The Bay Area is the scene of my adult life, so I was interested in capturing it. I think the connection between place and culture out here is an interesting question. 24

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I don’t think it’s totally determinative in the way that a desert culture would be, where the whole social structure is built around the place. Because I think of the Bay Area as being in some ways an abstract place, placed on top of a real topography. That tension to me is fascinating. I also had a good time driving around and taking pictures, and getting all the details of Marin and Silicon Valley as correct as I could, and the same with San Francisco. I wanted to write a San Francisco book, but it became clear to me in the middle of the writing that if I really wanted to write about the experience out here I had to go south, and I had to go north because it’s really the Bay Area, it’s not just San Francisco. The City is self-contained in some ways, but really it’s having an enormous conversation, a troubled conversation with Silicon Valley right now, and I wanted to make sure to write something about that. LQ: This is your first novel. How did you make the transition from writing short stories to writing a novel? SH: I wrote the book in two-page sections, out of order, sometimes third person, sometimes first person; a complete mess. And I handwrote it. I was handwriting a novel about a computer. So then I went back and started putting it together, and it was a long story that kind of did this. And then I tried to make it do this, and then I tried to keep extending it in some ways. It started out as a short story; then I started taking all of these other interests and trying to throw them in. The transition between story and novel is, I think, a structural challenge, because the middle of the novel is unlike anything you write as a story. If you write stories you’ll have a pretty good idea how to begin a novel, and a pretty good idea how to end a novel, but that middle part of the novel is the type of writing you’ve just not done before as a story writer. So I read a lot of novels very strategically. I looked at them: What did the middle look like? How did it work? How did they keep the story going? How do you give the satisfaction of a story? How do you open things and close them just enough to keep the story going? So I just was very kind of focused in my reading. That was my approach. LQ: How do you balance that and teaching? SH: Well, you try to have a little time during the day when you can write, even when you’re in the middle of heavy teaching or heavy responsibilities here. But almost everyone has to work and write. I mean, you know, Tobias Wolff works, so everyone’s going to have to have a sort of balance between these things. And I feel incredibly grateful that I have a job teaching, which informs and inspires my writing. So it’s not something that takes away from my writing, it actually puts into my writing, and I’m grateful for that.


“Half Dome,� Nathan Golshan Leland Quarterly Fall 2012

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“Spring Stream,” Nathan Golshan

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“Ghost,” Lauren Youngsmith Oil on canvas

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our frog seamus Our frog’s croak is like the first bloom of wetness, the warm mother-of-pearl fabric of her tenderness. Every half-note differs from how you dreamt it. No dream can account for the tongue’s low roll. Perhaps it is like the distance from what you love to what you say, so great a gourd could carry its burden, so high our frog would jump. I look for our frog the way I look for a poem, through the corner of my eye, hankering for movement and the moment just after. You fear our frog a little, as though it would sit upon your lap and secrete something yellowed and thickened by the seed of consonants, virile sounds gesturing memories of forms and sequences I can never recall. Our frog might understand the coincidence of its name. I want to grab its gummed sides, frame the toothpick ribcage with two fingers, and ask why it exists as the presence of unsaying that even among friends is the heartbeat between what we expect and never is, undelivered curious wants while the pulse is understatement, is cadences. Sometimes it is good that a poem like a frog can disenchant us. I remember so badly wanting to look for poems in these places, in the distance between ankles, along the inflection of killed humor, beneath brambles, white April fields. When you find a poem you hold it by the legs and feel the wet creases to check the sex. Our frog leapt, you squirmed, we guessed. —Alizeh Iqbal

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Derek Ouyang Major: Civil Engineering and Architectural Design Year: Senior Derek Ouyang is project manager of Stanford’s Solar Decathlon team. In his copious amounts of free time he engages in many forms of art such as music, photography, film, writing, and dance. He almost flaked out of going to Burning Man 2012 but ultimately survived a hot, dusty week in Black Rock City and considers it one of the best experiences of his life. These photos are just a glimpse at the ephemeral art and alternative lifestyle that await you on the playa.

“Death Guild”

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“Desert Stars”

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“Electric Dragon”

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“Burn Egg”

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“Burn Ego”

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“Canopy”

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“On the Playa (Sunburned Ass)”

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Elma, New York —Rachel Kolb

“I

t’s just like when I was a kid,” my father exclaimed from the driver’s seat as he geared up the windshield wipers, now whipping so violently it seemed they might fly off into the storm. We might have been driving through the roar of Niagara Falls, which our family would visit a day later, donning bright yellow rain ponchos as we ventured to the “Journey Behind the Falls,” our mouths opening and mascara streaming (in my mother and sister’s case) and our screams of laughter whisking into that wet vacuum as the Maid of the Mist bobbled in the distance. Now the rain broke over the car, hard, and drowned the windows in torrents. “This is New York in the summer for you,” my dad said. “This is nuts,” I said. After a winding drive from New York City through Pennsylvania under gray skies, only five minutes before the sun had beat down on the hills and picket-fence cottages with emerald intensity. “This almost beats a monsoon in New Mexico.” The key word being almost.

realized he was half serious. My father, in many ways, is an incorrigible romantic: driving across the country, hiking across mountain peaks, pursuing the highest summits and grandest views are all things he loves, especially when he can sweep the rest of his half-adventurous, half-complaining family along with him. He, I reckon, could have been a pioneer in the Old West. While he insisted he’d never want to return to New York or to the East – too humid, too cold, too many bugs and not enough of the scenic, captivating landscape of the West – there must still have been something drawing him back home. A few months before we scheduled our trip and went, just before I entered my final year of college, we looked up his address on Google Earth. Elma, New York. The map spun, zoomed in. A few thin gray roads sliced through a landscape as flat and green as someone’s lawn under a microscope. It wasn’t dusty brown with sagebrush, like the New Mexico desert I knew, nor were there any textured bits to imply mountains. My father swiped the map away from a darker gray cluster, which I took to be a small town, to an empty stretch of land I was twenty-one that summer. I likely would never return to occasionally intersected by Buffalo unless the whim struck my father to come here again. the same thread-like roads. After whisking back and forth, clearly searching want to show you girls where I grew up,” my father for something that matched the fabric of his memory, he constantly told my sister and me while we were pointed at an isolated square on the screen. “There it is,” he said to us, sitting in our living room at kids. He hadn’t been back to Buffalo in years, since his older brother’s funeral in the late ’90s. Many of his relatives still home, two thousand miles away. “That’s my house.” lived in the area or in not-so-distant Rochester, a clan of Kolbs with whom I shared a name but nothing else. My ur rental car stopped halfway down the gentle father had dropped off the family map when, young and slope before my father put it in reverse. He glanced wanting to escape the inevitability of factory jobs and staid to his right and his left, his eyes scanning the loosely spaced cousinly reunions, he’d headed west for New Mexico in houses in the grass and trees. He parked the car and pointed 1982. across the passenger seat. For two or three consecutive summers, we considered My father’s house was a small brick building, set down making the trip back. It didn’t work out: too inconvenient, in the bloom of the surrounding grass as matter-of-factly as too untimely, too expensive. When I was home between my a child’s structure made of square wooden blocks. Square: freshman and sophomore years of college, my father asked if that was the word for it. The corners popped out of the I wanted to roadtrip from New Mexico to upstate New York, earth, ruddy and built for hard-nosed functionality without like he and my mother had done for their first Christmas much thought for style. No fences, landscaping, or shrubs together, driving it in a single stretch. I laughed before I surrounded the property, much less indicated where the

“I

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property line even lay. Unlike the manicured lawns near asked as he drove into Albuquerque’s dusty urban sprawl. my school in California, this one did not compete with its “Where is the city under this big blue sky?” neighbors or announce, “Here I am.” The driveway plunked out to the road, an abandoned tricycle perching lopsidedly had my first job down there,” my father said a few near the garage. Not my father’s tricycle, I had to remind minutes later, after we’d driven the half-mile or so myself, my imagination already sprinting away into the past. from his house to a bridge across the river. He pointed along Someone else’s, forty-five years later. the riverbanks to a distant clearing. “Picking cabbage for a “Seven of us lived in there,” my father said, placing his hands on his “What kind of place is this?” he asked as he drove into hips. He shook his head. The house Albuquerque’s dusty urban sprawl. “Where is the city couldn’t have had more than three under this big blue sky?” bedrooms. “In that tiny little place. My mother spent all day cooking.” Our house back in New Mexico wraps around the yard and sprawls out from its wood- dollar twenty-five an hour. I wanted to make money. And, beam front porch like a ranch house, stretching under the there, this older kid – he was probably about fifteen, I was sun. Inside, the high wooden ceilings slope down to large twelve – dragged me down to the water and initiated me. windows, hardwood floors, and one very long hallway. That’s what they did when you started a job back then. During my high school days, in the mornings, I’d gallop “And that’s the spot I shot my first deer,” he said, pointing from one end of the house to the other in search of that math the other way up the river. “A bit into those trees behind the textbook I’d forgotten. I’d count my bounding strides down house. the hall from the garage – fourteen, fifteen, sixteen... Now, “I was always coming down to this river and playing. since both my sister and I left home for college, it feels too Skipping stones, fishing, fooling around by the water.” echoey and large for my parents. We got back in the car, drove out of Elma – wherever the “Looks like there are more trees now,” my father said, main-street part of Elma was – and headed along the railroad walking along the road. “And these houses weren’t here then. tracks toward the highway. “I had a motorcycle when I was This was all my dad’s land, out there in back. And that hill” – eighteen,” my dad said. “And I’d just get on and ride, ride out he turned to look at it, the gentle slope where we had parked forever along those tracks. Then I’d turn and come back, ride – “that seemed steeper too.” all the way home.” “But why?” my sister and I asked him. “What for?” Yes. So had the hills near the house in which I’d grown “Just for fun,” he said. “Wasn’t much else to do around up. Rollerblading down that easeful driveway, which seemed like a heart-thudding precipice at the time, I would reach the here in those days.” We drove to a roadside fruit stand, fan-ventilated and bottom with my cheeks suffused with my own bravery and accomplishment. hot. It was cramped and dark compared to a California farmer’s market, bustling and busy, the people dressed ntil visiting Washington, D.C. for a family vacation in trendy clothes and walking sleek dogs fresh from the when I was nineteen, I had never been to the East. groomer’s. Here, cars passed by on the vacant road only I’d heard jokes from college friends who marveled at the about every minute. None of them stopped. The sky wrapped weather in California but still insisted on some quality of around us, then settled its lethargy on a cluster of trees across East Coast-ness that was ineffably better, more grounded in a small field. The few buildings along the road stood out history, more fascinating, more – something. like monuments in the haze. One had nothing to do here That first time in the East, we drove up from Baltimore but breathe in the empty air, air in which there (I thought) over the Chesapeake Bay to Ocean City and the Delaware lingered a touch of the Coca-Cola-bottle 1950s. We bought a coast. My impression: flat, closed-in, humid, and green. few pears, a bag of dark seasonal cherries. They weren’t very Where were the mountains and the mesas? good. I graduated from high school in May 2008. One of “Maybe things have changed,” my father said. “But I my uncles, who flew out from the Twin Cities area for the remember the food from here tasted better when I was festivities, had never been west of the Mississippi river in his young.” 50-plus years on this earth. “What kind of place is this?” he

“I

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I

visited my mother’s childhood home in rural Illinois when I was seven, maybe eight. I haven’t been back since, and the memories I have of the event are fragmentary: a flat landscape consumed by corn, corn that my greatuncle let us pick off the stalk and eat while still out in the field, sweet and raw like candy. An old lean-to that had once housed feedlot cows, at which I felt dismayed that there were no horses. A screen door that I ran into (along with a plate full of food) at the family reunion. An above-ground pool. Silos and towering green John Deere tractors. My mother’s sparse upstairs room, where she’d shared a bed with her older sisters until they left for college. My mother, like my dad, left home when she was twentyone and did not look back. I hardly thought about this when I visited, nor did I really imagine her, freckled and blonde like me at ten or twelve, running through those cornfields. Reimagining my parents’ younger lives had not yet struck me as an interesting activity. She must have been struck by the mirror imagery, though, as she watched me and my sister – so like her at that age – tromping up and down the stairs in that house, wanting to ride in the back of the pickup, squatting outside with jars to catch fireflies in the dark.

M

changed since my father left. Duffy’s restaurant, once we got there, seemed to serve nothing but Buffalo wings. We sat down, my father and I settled on extra hot wings (we wanted to try the suicide or death sauce, but everyone else objected), and then I sat quietly as my father and his aunt recounted people I did not know. I do not remember most of their names. There were innumerable cousins, big clannish families who still lived close by. Some of them still attended a set Sunday gettogether at a local diner. Most of their children still lived in New York. My father, to me, started to seem increasingly like a black sheep. At some point, the conversation turned to Greg, my father’s brother. He was always tinkering with cars in the driveway, my father said, drawing an appreciative laugh from Aunt Carol. “He had a ’66 Chevy Impala that our grandmother gave him,” my father told the rest of us. “He spent all his time working on it. He knew everything about how to fix it, polish it, make it run right. Man, he loved that car.” I had never met my uncle Greg. We had recently met his daughter Jessica for dinner in New York City. I imagined he would have looked like my father, dark-haired and lanky, bent over a gleaming hood. And, meanwhile, my father would have been rounding in on his motorcycle, heading out to go fishing, sneaking into the house at six in the morning

y dad’s aunt Carol still lives in Buffalo, in a small townhouse decked with needlepoint pillows with homey sayings, artificial plants in pots, and handpainted knickknacks and gifts from her grandchildren. After checking into our She must have been struck by the mirror imagery, hotel – where I stood at the window though, as she watched me and my sister – so like and stared at the flat landscape, old her at that age – tromping up and down the stairs in industrial roads, and telephone lines of Buffalo – we headed out for dinner that house, wanting to ride in the back of the pickup, with the person my father described as squatting outside with jars to catch fireflies in the dark. his favorite aunt. I had never met Aunt Carol. She merged in my mind with all the Kolbs I had heard about but as his own father left for work. We finished dinner – my father and I ate twice as many never seen, from my father’s feisty grandmother to his hordes of cousins who still lived somewhere in Buffalo. Aunt Carol – Buffalo wings as everyone else – and headed back to Aunt or, rather, Great-Aunt Carol – was my grandmother’s sister, Carol’s house. She gave us cookies and milk, and we sat on the one who’d stayed put in New York when my grandmother her white couch for a while longer, sharing more stories. She left for Florida, the one who still called my grandmother daily especially seemed to hit it off with my sister Leigh. My mind and sent her handwritten letters. Like my grandmother, my wandered. Finally, the sky had been dark for a while – even father, and the few other Kolbs I’d met, Carol’s hair remained that far north in the summer – and the time had come for us robustly dark, untouched by coloring treatments for all her to go. “You’re so beautiful,” Aunt Carol said, rising from the life. She was seventy-six years old. Buffalo wings weren’t Aunt Carol’s favorite, but – as my sofa and clasping me tightly. “So beautiful. I just know you’re father said – what is a visit to Buffalo without some real hot going to go far.” Her arms would not let me go; her eyes wings? She humored us, squeezing in the back seat of our pierced into my face, as if memorizing it. I thought I saw tears rental car and pointing out streets and landmarks that had beginning to rise. At first I felt awkward, embraced by this

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T

he day before we left Buffalo, after venturing to see the Niagara Falls my father had visited so often as a kid, we spent the afternoon on the shores of Lake Erie. In other words, the prime outdoors destination in the greater Buffalo area, sister to Ontario, Huron, and… others I only remembered from geography tests in elementary school. Canada was a mere stone’s throw away, and I marveled that the lake was large enough to have waves beating against the sand (I’d hardly ever seen a lake whose opposite shores were not visible, however faintly, in the distance). “This beach was my family’s idea of a vacation,” my father had said. “Sailing, swimming, fishing, picnics, barbeques. That and camping. We had fun where we could.” At one point he wandered off into the waves in his orange swimming trunks, holding hands with my mother. My sister and I, protesting at the cold water when we’d forgotten to bring towels, made rock castles on the shore. I looked after my father and tried to imagine him, at sixteen, launching his boat out into these waters. I had been repeating the same exercise, with varying degrees of success, during the entire trip. I’d tried to ask him questions about the places we’d been and the things we’d seen, tried to draw him out, but the truth was I’d felt unusually shy. I sometimes felt like I was speaking to a stranger. The Bill Kolb who had lived here in the ’60s and ’70s wasn’t the Bill Kolb I knew. Likely the last time he’d been here, he had been twenty-

one, exactly my age. Exactly my mother’s age when she’d bought that plane ticket out of Illinois, ready to accept a job in a desert land where the mountains dominated the skyline and red rocks dotted the horizon instead of green fields and compact picket fence homes with American flags. They’d both left behind what they knew, destined to meet and marry within a year. While the scenery of Buffalo would have defined my father’s outlook at that time, and in many ways defined his later self – for instance, his love for the outdoors over “culture,” his preference for roughing it over reading – it also sank into his distant past, a past that I for all my curiosity could not access. I, at twenty-one, stood on the shores of Lake Erie, realizing that the body of water I most thought of was the Rio Grande, or perhaps San Francisco Bay, or whatever shores lay ahead of me. The waves beat on the sand, beckoning. Soon my parents returned from their walk and my sister and I joined them in the cold water. The humid air enwreathed my body; I plunged out into those strange waves, suddenly aware of how my frame matched my father’s, both then and now, thin and long-legged and lanky. I may not have been able to shoot or sail, to ride a motorcycle or fix a car or walk the roads of Elma with my fishing pole over my shoulder, but Erie welcomed me nonetheless, welcomed my tentativeness and my youth and my dreaming.

“Lake View,” Rachel Kolb Leland Quarterly Fall 2012

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progress

is the name of the g

In all things, it’s important not to lose sight of the journey, but I think it is especially easy to do just that with art. When there is that bottleneck between all you want to s ay and show and share, and the meagerness of your ability to translate it onto your canvas, it can feel crippling. We want only to show our best. But what the hell. Progress, whether in hobbies or school or work or relationships, is not something to be overlooked. Here is some of my art, standing before you in its naked glory. Like it, laugh at it, and remember it is ALL A WORK IN PROGRESS. Belladonna, on the cover of this issue, is acrylic on canvas board (shown at right at an earlier stage). One thing I love about traditional media is the knowledge that all the steps are preserved somewhere under that finished exterior.

A lmo s t , a v e r y q u i c k s k e t c h e x er c i s e i n s p i r e d b y a p h ot o o n t u m b l r. 42

Leland Quarterly Fall 2012


“sho win g those mis s te p s a lo ng the way is a l ittle lik e th e n i ghtmare of sta nd ing in fro nt o f class in your und e r w e a r ”

e game S o me t ime s p ie c e s p o p i n t o my h e a d n e a rly f u lly fo r m e d . T h is o n e , f o r in s t a n c e , d i d n ’ t u n d e rg o d ra s t ic c h a n g e s a s f a r a s la y o u t o r s u b je c t ma t t e r e v e n f ro m t h is v e ry me s s y a n d r a t h e r rid ic u lo u s s k e t c h t o t h e m o r e f le s h e d o u t v e rs io n b e lo w.

For unfamiliar subjects, photo references are incredibly useful. Don’t feel like it’s cheating either, because it’s rare that you find exactly what you need, and adapting a reference often teaches you more. Leland Quarterly Fall 2012

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Th is i s the k in d o f ov erly sym b o lic p ie ce I te n d d o to when I have t oo m any unr esol ved intern al ten sio ns pu lli ng me e ve r y wh ich wa y, a n d e sp eci al l y w hen I am havi ng t r oubl e c ommuni ca ti ng w i th o ther s in r e a l life . He r e , I wa n te d to expr ess m any di ff er ent f acet s of forgi ve ness a nd the com pl icate d cir cu m sta n ce s th a t o ften l ead t o i t s necessi t y i n t he f i r st pl ace . T he re is rag e, s orrow, r e g r e t; th e r e is th e p a in th at w e i nf l i ct on our sel ves, as w el l as the b la me and the g ui lt. An d th e r e is a lwa ys th a t la st bul l et , unf i r ed: t he possi bi l i t y of a frag il e reco nci lia tio n s h a tte r e d , th e we ig h t o f e v er yt hi ng t hat cam e bef or e.

forgiveness


Ever yday Dem ons ( unfinished) , a pi ec e I r evisited a year later to tr y and c aptur e an honesty of em otion that I felt I fai l ed to the fi r s t tim e. Can you tell which ver sion i s w hi c h?

why

If ar t is ther apy, then this was an attem pt to exor cise that feeling of hear tache s o deep i t’s becom e physical. 46

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patri matri sorori fratri sui

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viru ethno flori

-cide

-cide (unfinished) was another image that came into my mind fairly vividly. I knew that I wanted to create an image that would be disturbing and yet peaceful – something that held taut the tension between violence and solace. In color, this is emphasized by highsaturation cool blue and glaring red tones. In earlier versions, you can see that I toyed with the blatant inclusion of angel wings, but opted otherwise.

logo tome regi monstri dei legi

menti fideli

Moments in Between (unfinished), a quick sketch based on a scene from a story I wrote. She knows their situation is dangerous and their time to escape from their pursuers is on a short fuse. Her painting is a futile attempt to keep one moment of peace; sometimes there’s nothing to do but try.


-cide

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the new year, a sestina — savannah kopp

We were friends before we got drunk. Earlier that night and when we were little We played pretend while we learned how to be people, Aging into our parents as we ring in each new year. This one will be the best, or at least almost Better, we scream. We will begin it and end it together. When we are together It is now, then, and tomorrow. We drink Our pasts from plastic goblets, blend them into almost One piece. In each other we see little Versions of ourselves but this year We each feel like brand new people. We may be grown-up people But we’re a machine, laughter and stress together. At least there’s laughter. Stress. Repeat. Year After year, we say the same words reordered when we’re drunk. Everything that happens varies on the same pattern of little Phrases and moments we can sew into one, almost. I pretend we are almost Fine until she cries, Some people Will not be more than alone. Not when I was little. Not to anyone. Even now, together— She doesn’t know me, and maybe she’s drunk But she isn’t lying this year. Her truth comes out for our new year When we’re classy in sparkles and silver, almost Falling through a room that pulses in a drunk Façade of celebration. All the people We never talk to see us together, Think we are exactly the same as when we were little. Measure the little Sad platitudes that tie each year To the next. We were cast together From the glamor you can almost Buy. Once we did. Shadow us into real people And we’ll say we understand more when we’re drunk.

“Kiev,” Brian Tich 50

Leland Quarterly Fall 2012

We thought we felt together but it’s almost a little true, To become people you forget you’re a person and when we scream HAPPY NEW YEAR we hope we’re too drunk to remember tonight.


Contributors

MARK BESSEN is a sophomore from Los Angeles, CA NINA FOUSHEE is a sophomore from Tuscon, AZ NATHAN GOLSHAN is a senior from Hughesville, PA ALIZEH IQBAL is a sophomore from Mill Valley, CA RACHEL KOLB is a coterm from Albuquerque, NM SAVANNAH KOPP is a junior from Davis, CA DEREK OUYANG is a senior from Arcadia, CA KEVIN ROUFF is a sophomore from Santa Fe, NM BRIAN TICH is a sophomore from Ellicott City, MD ALOK VAID-MENON is a senior from College Station, TX LILITH WU is a senior from Mesa, AZ LAUREN YOUNGSMITH is a senior from Denver, CO

contribute

• We consider work by current Stanford students only. • Submissions are reviewed on a rolling basis throughout the year. We publish on a “Stanford quarterly” basis—that is, three times a year (fall, winter, and spring). • Submissions must be original, unpublished work. • To avoid redundancy, please do not submit any work to Leland that you are also submitting to other campus publications. • We accept submissions from all genres: we are concerned first and foremost with quality of expression, not in the genre of the work itself, so feel free to innovate. • All submissions are reviewed anonymously by the editorial staff. If selected, contributors will work one-on-one with Leland Quarterly editors to produce a polished piece for publication.

Ready to Submit? Visit www.lelandquarterly.com Leland Quarterly Fall 2012

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Q

Volume 7, Issue 1 Copyright Š 2012 by Leland Quarterly Stanford University www.lelandquarterly.com 52

Leland Quarterly Fall 2012

Leland Quarterly, Vol. 7 Iss. 1, Fall 2012  

Featuring Mark Bessen, Alizeh Iqbal, Kevin Rouff, Alok Vaid-Menon, Lilith Wu, and more...

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