Leland Quarterly Vol. 12, Issue 1: Fall 2017

Page 1

Fall 2017


Luke Muller 2

quarterly Volume 12, Issue 1: Fall 2017 Editors-in-Chief: Nan Munger and Anna Ceci Rosenkranz

Financial Manager Annie Graham

Associate Editors Adesuwa Agbonile Nic Becker

Layout Editors Nan Munger Anna Ceci Rosenkranz Zuyi Zhao

Rosalie Chang Irene Han Faith Harron Riley Jackson Christina Ping Mac Taylor Laura Tobar Reagan Walker Erin Woo Zuyi Zhao

Copyright 2017 by Leland Quarterly | All Rights Reserved Stanford University | Giant Horse Printing, San Francisco

Vibha Puri


“Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives. As they become known and accepted to ourselves, our feelings, and the honest exploration of them, become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas, the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action.” –Audre Lorde We would like to thank all of our contributors and give an extra special shoutout to our incredible financial officer, Annie Graham, who has navigated us through a horrible funding situation, and to our amazingly patient publisher, Lily Cheng at Giant Horse Printing. Creating a magazine in less than ten weeks is a huge challenge, and we are so grateful to everyone who has supported us along the way! –Nan and Anna Ceci


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017


“Poetry is a Fire” by Stephanie Niu on 9 “Post-Shower” by Vibha Puri on 13 “That He Might Mimic Real Birds” by Oishi Banerjee on 27 “The Sound” by Stephanie Niu on 28 “Middle Names” by Hannah Llorin on 30 “That Easter Sunday” by Michaela Szabo on 39 “Swept” by Julie Freels on 41


“Entropic Weapons” by Erin Woo on 10 “Before, After” by Marika Tron on 14 “Summer in the City” by Mac Taylor on 32



Photographs by Luke Muller on cover, 2 Photographs by Vibha Puri on 4, 8, Gouache gesture drawings by Nan Munger on 11, 33 “Self-Portrait through Fog” by Nan Munger on 12 “It’s Lake Lag!” by Kate Ham on 20 Photographs by Catie Brown on 24, 40 “Last on Earth” by Katherine Liu on 26 Painting by Elizabeth McCune on 31 “Gigantic” by Katherine Liu on 38 Drawing by Jonathan Sington on 36 “Gigantic” by Katherine Liu on 38


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Vibha Puri


poetry is a fire Stephanie Niu it takes effort to resist burning, to fight the words that constantly threaten to rupture out, ignited. to see the world as words is to constantly fight flame. I prayed for the day my bus commute would become routine, the day I would no longer feel the smolder of the details in the passengers waiting to be discovered. the way the woman in the patterned dress creases the spine of her yellowed novel the smears of dust on my neighbor’s dark pants a paperback that the white man across from me clutches against his leather bag the subtle Japanese detailing on its cover the man with the beady eyes who protectively grips his backpack straps every morning all this burning, begging to form language. but occasionally a neighboring blaze is enough to remind you of the smell of charring: today the sky was hazy with smoke blown from a forest fire in British Columbia. the translucent air crossing countries, seeping through the Seattle skyline, settling thick in my hair with the weight of flames too large for the forest to hold.


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Entropic Weapons Erin Woo It lands in the garden like absolution, like end times. Black casing, silver fins, white letters that we don’t get close enough to see, those first few days. We still think it will explode, that it is biding its time, that it knows something we don’t and it’s waiting, waiting — It does not explode. A week goes by, and Matthew ventures into the garden, his steps exaggeratedly light. I stand in the doorway, biting my lip, as he crouches to read the words. “An ‘entropic weapon,’ Lydia,” he calls, squinting against the sunlight. “That’s funny.” That’s funny, he says, like it’s a clever gag delivered just for us. That’s funny, he says, because before we moved here he studied particle physics for the government, because he knows the second law of thermodynamics better than he knows our new landline number. That’s funny, he says. Entropy needs no help. It becomes a running joke, after a while. When the city council offers to remove it, we politely decline. Matthew lets the garden grow wild around the weapon because who is he to defy physics, Lydia, come on, and besides, this way nobody has to do any weeding. It is a conversation piece at dinner parties with Matthew’s old university friends. The irony, they tell him. It’s fantastic. Three years pass, and there are twins waking up in the little upstairs bedroom, papered with monkeys and stars. Six, and little Emma is playing in the garden when she stumbles across the bomb. She calls Audrey over, and they stand hand in hand, staring at it. “An entropic weapon,” Matthew tells them, even though they do not know what that means.


Entropic Weapons| Erin Woo

That night, we take them up onto the roof. Matthew sets up his telescope, and we show them the stars. There is garden soil on my hands and far-away light in my eyes, and I think that somehow we have managed to create order out of chaos. (Later, much later, when things fall apart, I remember. “The entropic weapon,” I say to Matthew, over the hum of the breathing machine, over the beeps whose purpose I still do not know, except that they have something to do with the nurse. “That old thing?” whispers Matthew. His voice sounds like tissue paper over bare skin. “What about it?” “What if. What if, this — what if this was what it was doing, after all this time—” “Don’t be silly, Lydia,” he mumbles, fond, always fond. “And besides, if we’re talking about weapons, I think time’s as good a place to start as any, wouldn’t you think?”)

Nan Munger 11

Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Nan Munger


Post-Shower Vibha Puri i am lanky and gangly and contorted and fully human. with lumpy-eyed breasts pointed forward, i choose to be naked and big to plead with God is to speak with myself. i ask myself to dance


Leland Quarterly |Autumn 2017

Before, After Marika Tron

On our sixth anniversary, Russell gave me a stack of divorce papers held together with a blue butterfly clip, my favorite color. And, in a twisted last-ditch effort to be fair, he also gave me a card. On the outside were two cartoon hearts, one with long eyelashes and the other with thin eyebrows, their mouths wide with joy and other tiny hearts dancing around them. When I opened the card, a photo of him, our daughter and I fell out. Happy Anniversary, he had written on the inside. I hope it was worth it. From, Russell. *** He told me he loved me first. I hated him for it. Hated him for springing it on me, hated him for smiling so shyly, hated him for meaning it. “He said it,” I said as soon as my sister answered the phone. “He said it first.” “He’s got it bad then.” She paused. “What did you say?” “Nothing.” “Was this today?” “No.” “When was it?” “Two weeks ago.” “Christ, Delilah,” Nora said, then fell quiet. Instead of fighting back, I was struck with a wild desperate urge to have her in front of me, here, now. I watched the clock flick from 1:27 AM to 1:28, then 1:29, then 1:30. “What?” I finally asked. “Nothing.” “Nora.” “Seriously. It doesn’t matter.” “Then tell me.” She sighed, a loud crackling thing. “This—just—sounds like some shit Mom would do. Just, the running away, the ignoring him, you know. Do you want to—” Her voice kept blaring through the phone speaker as it dropped to the floor. I sat, numb, hearing the rise and fall of her words, the attempted insights, the caring reassurance. I didn’t need it. I didn’t want it. The advice followed me out the door, down the stairs, to the other side of town.


Before, After| Marika Tron

“I love you too,” I said when he opened the door, bleary-eyed and confused. “Just don’t let it go to your head.” “Alright,” he told me. “I won’t if you don’t.” “I’m serious.” I watched his lips stretch into that goofy grin, biting my tongue to keep my face plain. “Me too.” Then, after a moment, “Do you want to come in?” I shifted on my feet, knowing if I tried to refuse out of exhaustion, there’d be no way he’d let me drive myself home. But if I accepted, we’d be on his home turf. My words would be swirling around his head and his tenderness and care would fill the entire apartment until it suffocated me. He would want to talk. “You don’t have to,” he amended after a moment. “I know,” I replied automatically. I would have done anything to get those eyes, soft and perceptive, to focus on something else, anything else. My stomach growled, cruel and revealing. “Let’s go to Denny’s.” *** On our first anniversary, he told me he knew he was going to marry me as soon as he met me. He said no one had ever been that passionate about his thumb rings before, no one had ever told him they hated them. He also said he had never seen a girl as beautiful as me, but I think he was lying. I told him not to be so presumptuous. The feminist inside me, braless and covered in body hair, used to shiver a bit whenever she saw the ring. Some days, it weighed a thousand pounds. *** I met Russell on my twenty-first birthday. Nora surprised me by coming up to campus for the weekend, wielding a Pennsylvania ID that claimed she was twenty-two. We went out with some friends from my dorm, the first time in a while. There were six of us, sparkling tightly-fitted girls, twirling and shrieking and laughing in a cloud of perfume and cigarette smoke as we skipped from bar to bar. I was twelve drinks into the twenty-one I was supposed to have that night, a rule that was screamed into my ear the second we stepped into the first club. Then Nora found me on the ground in the third stall of the bathroom, curled up with my head half in the toilet. She wiped away the eyeliner and lip gloss the best she could, then propped me up on our way outside. I threw up twice on the sidewalk before the cab came. There was a guy already in the backseat. “Wanna split?” he asked. Nora blushed. I collapsed next to him without a word. He was handsome, dressed in a smart suit and tie, despite it being two in the morning. Nora kept a hand curled around my forearm and gave me a cheeky smile when we pulled away from the curb. But I was focused on the driver, on this man with a picture of Bob Dylan tucked into the air conditioner, where other drivers put shots of their smiling children or halfnaked women. He wore rings on both thumbs, dull pewter things that only shone when we passed under a streetlight. I asked him his name. “Russell,” he said, eyes flicking up to the rearview mirror. “Russell Webb.”


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

The next morning, I awoke to a text. The letters blurred together for a moment, then sharpened. Nora gave me your number, it said. Wanted to check in. My head rushed with hazy memories from the night before. Who is this? I typed back. Russell. Your chauffeur from last night. Russell. Slowed at every yellow light. Played French jazz just loud enough for me to hear the trumpet, crooning and soothing. Held a hand out for me to shake when we pulled up to my apartment. Do you text all your customers? Only the ones that throw up in my cab. I cringed, letting the phone slip out of my hands to land on my chest with a dull thud. It buzzed again, and I closed my eyes for a moment to let the world stop spinning before I picked it up. Only the cute ones.* Damn autocorrect. I called him. He answered on the second ring. “You think you’re smooth,” I told him as soon as I heard the click. “Hello,” he said simply. His voice was bold but light, like he had just finished telling a joke that had the whole room laughing. When I didn’t respond, he cleared his throat. “Thank you.” “Why did you ask for my number?” “I didn’t.” I waited for him to explain. He made a noise, something between a laugh and a sigh. “You tried to whisper to Nora that you thought I was cute, and—” “I would never.” “—asked her to get my number. You were very adamant—” “Doesn’t sound like me.” “—about getting it. And also about telling me that you hated my thumb rings.” “Now that, I believe.” There was a pause, awkward and too quiet. I was suddenly too aware of myself, wearing only a t-shirt and underwear, lying in bed. I wondered where Russell was, wondered if he was waiting for this damn call to just end, or if he was taking his whole break just to talk to me. The latter excited me, but I squashed the budding feeling in my chest. “Do you?” he asked suddenly. “Do I what?” “Hate my thumb rings?” A yes hovered on my tongue, easy and snarky. But I swallowed it. The budding feeling was back, and I was too tired to ignore it again. I remembered his face, round and smooth. His eyes, easy and bright, that voice, those rings. It was all stunning in its oddity, and I couldn’t stand it. “I’ll have to see them again,” I said before I could stop myself. “Just to decide.” *** On our second anniversary, I told him about my mother. Everything about my mother. The diagnoses that condemned her and the therapy that didn’t stick. The divorce she threatened until she finally got it. Eyes like a storm, wild and thundering. Broken bottles. Forgotten dance recitals. Smudged lipstick. Walking into her room after a nightmare to find my mother’s latest fling curled up next to her. 16

Before, After| Marika Tron

Shopping for long sleeves in the summertime. Dodging concerns from teachers with ease. Pushing Nora into the backyard when my mother walked in the front door. Standing quietly in front of the unfolded laundry or dirty dishes. Catching palms to the cheek and punches to the back. Watching Nora peer in through the screen door. Making her swear to not tell my mother the truth, to just let me take all the hits. Promises whispered in the blue light of dawn when our throats were raw from screaming. Weekend trips to the coast when my mother’s mania was soaring. Dinners made together, just the three of us, sweet barbecue ribs and buttery mashed potatoes and crunchy green beans. Stories told until we fell asleep: tales of princesses who chose the dragon, mothers who filled their houses with daughters with no sons in sight, little girls who learned to fly and soared into the stars, laughing at everyone down on the ground. My mother taught me how to braid hair, how to sew a patch onto my shorts, how to bake a cake. She also taught me how to pretend to be asleep, how to cover a bruise with makeup, how to walk while hiding a limp. Russell said I should have told him sooner. I asked if that would have made a difference. *** A chandelier, I decided as I walked into the kitchen. A chandelier will go here. Right above the table, so its soft light would illuminate family dinners and game nights and finger-painting sessions. The marble counters were empty before me, waiting to be filled with coffee mugs and a toaster and mail brought in by whoever comes home first. I inhaled slowly to steady my racing heart, but the faint scent of fresh paint and sawdust only excited me more. This was my home, the first and probably the only one I would ever own. Co-own, Russell had told me. We’re in this together, right? ‘Till death do us part and all that. Yeah, I know, I had said to him. I was the one in the white dress, remember? He was always doing that, reminding me that there was two of us now. He was always assuring me that whatever happened to one of us happened to the both of us. That we weren’t burdens to each other. We weren’t strangers. We wanted to be here, together. You need someone, Delilah. You’re not going to burst into flames because of it. The room seemed to sigh with relief at that realization. Sun streamed in through the window above the sink, warming the floor beneath it. I sought out the heat, pressed down my bare feet to try and ground myself. Foolishly, eagerly, I reached up and tried to trace my fingertips along the smooth white ceiling. I couldn’t reach it, but it didn’t matter. *** On our third anniversary, Harper was born. My baby. I was going to have a baby. I was going to be a mother. I wasn’t being forced to be the mother Nora would never have or the caregiver my mother would never be. I had made something, grown something, cared for something, for nine months. Because I wanted to. I had decided the day I heard the news that she was never going to be an obligation, a disappointment, a regret. She was going to be good. She was going to be right. She was going to be like Russell. It was the wettest day of the season, I would later read in the paper. A few houses in the valley had collapsed from flooding. I took it as a funny omen, as a sign that Harper was going to turn the world on its head. Russell didn’t.


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

On the drive to the hospital, Russell swerved to avoid hitting a rabbit and the wheels slipped on the wet road and I smacked my head against the window so hard that a small blue bruise started to form on the edge of my cheekbone. A nurse pulled me aside when Russell was filling out our check-in paperwork, worry lines creasing her forehead. I smiled and shook my head. Never, I promised her. I knew how it looked. He towered over me when we stood next to each other. I nearly disappeared whenever he hugged me or I borrowed one of his jackets. His skin was so dark I used to place my pale palms on either side of his face whenever we made love, my thumbs resting just under the whites of his eyes, just to see where we were one, just to see myself in him. I also knew how he melted whenever I reached for him, a silent hand, palm up on the center console or couch cushion or pillow between us. I also knew how he looked whenever I walked in the front door, like his life had stopped the moment I walked out of it. I also knew he wasn’t my mother. He would never. *** She picked the color with the eyes of an artist five times her age. She treated the selection of the rock with the same care, tiptoeing through the garden as if the perfect choice would attack her at any moment. Every time I hold it now I can see her furrowed brow, pouting lip, and tiny but steady hands. I can hear her calling out for me to pass her the next paint color, no not that brush, the other one, the big one, yes that one. The day was warm, muggy and sticky, and it pressed down on me from all sides. My legs had begun to cramp from crouching to her height and sweat was crawling down my back and the sun was bouncing off the bright pavement of the driveway right into my eyes, but I stayed. I stayed to watch. I watched her paint those lopsided eyes and that crooked tongue and that wide mouth. I watched her mind work as it turned something inanimate into something so much more alive, and I watched as she handled the final product more carefully than I had ever seen her handle something before. I wondered if she knew, as she handed it over, that it would be the last gift she would ever give me. I wondered if she knew I would never let it out of my sight. *** On our fourth anniversary, Nora called to say she couldn’t watch Harper for the night, something had come up at work, she was terribly sorry. So Russell and I stayed in, ordering pizza instead of filet mignon and eating it on the couch instead of in a trendy restaurant downtown. I wore sweatpants instead of the sparkling dress that hung in my closet and Russell shrugged on his old Colorado football jacket instead of the tie he knew I loved, the one with the thin blue stripes. “I’m sorry,” he whispered into my hair when the movie credits started rolling. “Don’t do that,” I told the grease stains on the pizza box. My finger traced patterns on his jacket. “It’s not your fault.” “But I wanted to take you out.” “And I wanted to stay in.” “Did you?” “Yes.” “What about your new dress?” 18

Before, After | Marika Tron

I lifted my head. He was smirking at me, but it didn’t belong on his face. He looked like a child trying to keep a secret. “What about it?” “Don’t you want to wear it?” I shrugged, turning away again and settling further into the smooth muscle of his chest. I let my eyes wander around the room. The carpet was spotless, I realized. And so was the other couch, and the windows behind the television, and the tile near the front door. Without looking I knew the kitchen table had been wiped clean since breakfast, the calendar on the fridge was filled with Russell’s careful handwriting, and all the voicemails on the landline had been listened to and noted. I also knew that before we headed upstairs for bed, Russell would check all the locks. He would set up the coffee pot for the morning, line up his running shoes by the front door, and grab a water bottle to set by his nightstand in case he got thirsty during the night (he never did). He would remind me of the events coming up this week, ask me about that thing he saw on the news, and let me know what time he would be home the next day before he would even consider having sex. It made me want to scream. “Delilah?” “It’s not important,” I said suddenly. “It’s just a dress.” The credits had stopped. The screen was black. I could hear my heartbeat thud in my head. “Well, for what it’s worth, you look pretty damn sexy in these,” he says playfully, reaching for the waistband of my sweatpants. “Not tonight,” I told him as I stood up and grabbed the pizza box to throw out. “I’m tired.” *** “You have to tell her.” Nora’s voice breaks the silence of the apartment, her tone stern but soft. “Eventually.” I pretend I didn’t hear her from my spot in the kitchen and feign extreme interest in reading the manual for my new microwave. I hate looking up from it, hate the sight of my new apartment with all its barren walls and sterile furniture. Nora and I are working as quickly as we can to change that. “Delilah?” she calls, too loud for me to ignore her. I count to ten in my head, forcing her to sit in thick silence until I finally look up. She’s paused her unpacking of picture frames and coffee table books, hands still resting on the edges of the cardboard box. “She’s your daughter. And, like you, she’s going to want answers,” she says, like I had no idea. “She has to hear it from you, not him.” “What does it matter? You and I both know the story wouldn’t change.” “Yes, it would,” she states as if it’s obvious, having abandoned the box to turn towards me. “How can you say that?” Always such an optimist, I think wistfully. The stubborn unyielding optimist. She and Russell were alike in that way. I couldn’t stand it. “Because it’s true.” She rolls her eyes. “What’s true doesn’t matter to him. He’ll do whatever it takes to get what he wants. To hurt you and to protect Harper.” 19

Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Kate Ham


Before, After | Marika Tron

“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” I say, sitting back in my chair and instinctively crossing my arms over my chest. “Since when is he the villain?” Her hands raise in a weak surrender. “Your words, not mine.” “You must love this.” It’s out before I can stop it. “You never liked him.” She opens her mouth to respond but I continue before she can. “You always thought I was settling. ‘Staying with him made me too ‘dependent,’ right? That’s what you told mom, isn’t it?” I pause, afraid my heart is going to leap out of my mouth if I don’t calm its rabbiting beat. Nora’s frozen, mouth still open, poised to refuse. “Yeah, she told me how you used to talk shit. She may not have liked us together, but she did love tearing us apart.” “I wanted you to be happy.” Ever the charmer, she chooses her words carefully. “He was what you wanted, so you stayed with him. But then it got old, ‘staying together.’ You got bored, which happens to everyone. Your desires changed, and you did something about it! Is it so bad that I’m a little bit relieved?” The slap of the manual as it hits the kitchen counter scares a jump out of her, but I’m too numb with anger to even fake an apology. I hold her eyes for a moment. “I cheated on him,” I say slowly, as I used to have to do when we were young and she didn’t understand something. Why I was always buying Band-Aids, who all the men that our mother invited over were, when our father was going to come back. “I took what we had: a family, a home, a good life together, and I shit all over it. That’s how the story goes. There’s no other way for him to twist it, is there?” “Of course there is. If you just talk to Harper before he does you could be more honest with her and—” “Please,” I say, much quieter than I intended. “Just leave it. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” “Or you’ll fall into the river and drown.” “Heard that.” “I hope so.” I try to refocus on the manual, but a childish anger comes over me, an anger that usually flares up whenever I’m with Nora, an anger that screams don’t let her shove you around and you’re supposed to be the mature older sibling. I’ve known how to do everything since we were young. I had to. No one else was going to teach her. Sex, drugs, music, school. I was there first, telling her what was right and what was wrong, what was cool and what was to be avoided, what hurt and what eased the pain, even if just for a little while. But when Nora wanted to know how to write a love letter or why that boy wouldn’t look back at her or what it meant when her heart beat just a little bit faster and her cheeks got just a little bit warmer, I was a high-school freshman on my seventh hook-up. Love was the only thing I hadn’t taught her. I never had the chance. Our mother taught us to be wary, to see everyone as a threat, to take our places as victims. I knew how to move my hips and what my lips could do and what happened when my eyelashes fluttered just like that, and I only had time for myself. I never knew what I was going to have to face when I went home, so I stayed out with anyone and everyone. Jumping from body to body kept me from the truth behind questions like what is this scar 21

Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

from and why can’t we go to your house and is it true you’ve slept with every guy on the basketball team? Nora could be right. She probably is. But I can’t let her know that. Then she’ll have won, and this is the one battle I can’t afford to lose. If I can’t even prove to my own daughter that I’m not a monster, what does that say about what I’ve done to Nora? “What’s this?” she suddenly calls out, holding up something wrapped in bubble wrap. It’s round, and it would fit in one hand without the clunky wrapping. “I don’t remember,” I grind out. “Unwrap it.” As soon as I say it and watch the packaging fall to the floor, I know I’ve made a mistake. My stomach twists and caves in on itself, settling into a large heavy knot. “Did you paint this?” she asks slowly, gripping it between her thumb and her index finger. “No.” She narrows her eyes and cocks her head like she doesn’t understand the joke. “Who did?” For a sickening second, I think she’s playing with me. She must be. She has to know who it was. If she is playing, she’s doing a damn good job. Saying her name takes immense effort. I thought hearing Nora say it would somehow make it easier. I thought it was going to be easier. I thought I would be stronger. “Harper.” Her face immediately fills my mind; her laugh, my ears. Imagining her is suddenly painful in a way I never thought it would be, in a way I never wished it would be. “Why?” “Just something she made in school,” I lie quickly. “When?” I dig my nails into my palm, then release, watching the crescent-shaped marks disappear. “Last month, I think.” Fierce resistance glows in her eyes, a recognition that something is off. “Why do you have it?” “She gave it to me.” “No, I mean, why did you keep it? Kids make shit like this all the time. You keep it the first few times, but a woman can only take so many macaroni masterpieces, and, apparently, rocks with faces painted on them, until she decides she’s had enough.” “I like it,” I say desperately, cringing at the meek brokenness of my voice. “It’s cute. So I kept it.” “I just think, if you’re trying to start fresh and you’re a little tight for space here, then maybe you should consider getting rid of some—” “I lost custody.” She falls silent. “Primary, at least. And with joint, I’ll be lucky if I even get a weekend with her once a month. So I’m keeping the damn rock.” Eventually, my pulse slows. Eventually, I let the pages of the manual slip from my white-knuckled grip and I press my palms to the cool marble to steady myself. Eventually, the blood stops rushing through my ears long enough for me to hear Nora clear her throat, set the rock on the coffee table and murmur, “Well, I’ll let you decide where to put it.” *** 22

Before, After | Marika Tron

On our fifth anniversary, we went on a vacation. We spent a week in the Yuma desert, me and him and the sun. I asked him if the company was going to be okay with it, him saving up his sick days and taking a week off. What are they gonna do? he had asked, tossing his swim trunks into a suitcase. People will always need to get places, and there will always be people to take them there. The desert made us Russell and Delilah again. We smoked pot before breakfast and stayed high until sunset. We hiked through the canyons and sat in the cool shade of abandoned Native American caves. We sang and danced when the stars came out, howling like coyotes at cars that drove by. But then one morning Russell left to go on a run, and for the first time in a long time, I was alone again. I sat watching the mesas that crowded the horizon, never settling on anything for longer than a few moments. I was alone. I held my breath while a jackrabbit bounded through our campsite. I was alone. There were no voices, no one calling for me, no one reminding me, no one needing me. Above, the sun melted the colors in the sky from dark periwinkle to dusty pink and soft lilac. I was alone. I eyed the campsite, the sleeping bags that had been dragged out for a better view of the stars, the boots that had been kicked off so we could feel the warm sand under our feet, the marshmallows we had brought for s’mores but tore into at three in the morning because we couldn’t wait. I could pack up and make it at least ten miles before I would need a break. Footsteps shuffled through the sand behind me. Russell’s heavy breathing filled the air. He collapsed next to me, skin covered in a thin sheet of sweat and lips stretched into a content smile. “Hey,” he said. “What did I miss?” *** I’d like to say it was an accident. Hell, I’d love to say it was an accident. I’d love to blame in on the alcohol or the drugs or him or some malicious combination of the three. I’d love to break down and cry, sob, wail, to fall apart in front of Russell. I’d love to surprise him, to show him that it wasn’t really me. Maybe then he would forgive me. I didn’t do any of those things. It was a Tuesday. Russ was in the kitchen working on his fajitas, stepping from the stove to the fridge to the pantry and back to the stove, and I was leaning against the counter, wine glass in hand, empty only for a few seconds at a time. My hands itched for something to do. Harper was at a friend’s house for a sleepover; an empty silence echoed throughout the house. The peppers were still sizzling when we sat down to eat. They were the loudest thing in the room. I let him eat three of them, passed him the salsa, watched bits of chicken and tortilla get stuck to his chin then be wiped away before I finally cleared my throat. He raised his eyes to me immediately with the kind of attention my father used to save for Mets games and my mother, her sewing. As a child, I used to love anyone’s scrutiny, relished the opportunity to tell them no and I’m alright and I can do it by myself. I used to love the confusing mix of pride and sadness flash across their faces as they realized I really could. 23

Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Catie Brown


Before, After | Marika Tron

Now, it’s exhausting. When Russ looks at me like this, eyes crinkled and eyebrows furrowed, I feel drained by his care. I know the concern should be welcomed, should be wanted, should be allowed. And it was, when we first got married. I fell into him, slashing holes in my parachute and clamping a hand over my eyes before I jumped. He was the safety net I never had. But no one told me I had to live with myself before I could live with anyone else. I thought I loved Russell and that would be enough. I thought that love would swallow up every insecurity, every worry, every inch that had been left bruised and raw. And part of me probably still does, for the lies I told myself were sweet and easy. For the past year, that part has been smiling and laughing and dancing when really she was burning and crumbling and disappearing. He blinks at me. The words sit in my chest, in the place right above my stomach. They burn, like I’ve eaten too much spicy food and it’s not going down as it should be and my stomach acid is trying, it’s reaching, it wants to digest the food but there’s a slab of concrete in the way somehow growing thicker and thicker stopping up my throat— “I had an affair.” If this were a different kind of story, I would tell you about what happened next. I would tell you about what Russell said, the things he accused, the apologies I whispered. I would tell you about how he looked, tears spilling down his cheeks and hanging on his chin, his face twisting in on itself so much I wanted to throw up. I would tell you about the way the couch felt under my back, how he felt miles away upstairs in our bed. If this were a different kind of story, I would tell you about the affair. I would tell you about my lover (an absurd word, there was anything but love) about his youth (the blonde hair in my fingers, the smooth tan of his skin, the soft shyness of his voice) about how he was so much more naïve and spontaneous than Russell. I would tell you about my selfishness, the way I took and took and never meant to do any of it. I would tell you about how I had taken my body and scraped everything out, all the bad stuff and even the good stuff, until I was hollow. I would tell you about how the truth became foreign to me, how I avoided looking into mirrors for fear of seeing her, that ghost woman. If this were a different kind of story, I would root for the main character to die.


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Katherine Liu


that he might mimic real birds Oishi Banerjee “Ut veras imitetur artes.” - Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.195 void flight() { int icarus = 1; while (true) { //one climbs, looping towards infinity icarus = icarus + 1; //forgetting that wax must overflow— if (icarus < 0) { //the variable overflows, plunging to an abyssal depth, and above the waves break; } } } //how easily we forget that wings are not ours //that daedal artes unmade their maker //how lightly technology’s myth can sweep us up


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

the sound Stephanie Niu there is a sound to every city if you listen for it. a quiet seattle rooftop, mosquito-less temperate late-august blush. the water spread like a palm, lying patiently before the glitter of downtown. a scatter of loose stars. it takes a moment, a sharp honking of car horn to realize that the city is quiet, almost like tokyo. that rainy july. each time I paused for breath


the sound | Stephanie Niu

realizing my voice was the loudest sound besides vehicles exhaling. tonight their motion over the bridges is seamless, unending, a low roar washing through highways like ocean. a quiet churning so fine it dissolves. it takes motion, snatches of jazz floating from an open window to listen, put an ear to the city’s water-carved curves, to raise the hollow to your ear and hear sea.


Leland Quarterly |Autumn 2017

Middle Names Hannah Llorin I came of age in a summer so long that land forgot the taste of rain and turned golden with thirst, a land where falsehoods gathered like southbound songbirds. The tidal walls of the westernmost room, the second womb, the red door of a redder house that I forsook and fled when it was my generation’s time to speak. Three hearts beating briefly in my mother’s body. Cracks in my palm that cross at the point where I wake to the moon asking: Why is your god still a man?


Elizabeth McCune


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Summer in the City Mac Taylor The girl put on a bathrobe after looking at her body in the mirror. The floor at her feet was tiled, black and white black and white. She traced the black squares in diagonals with her toe, swishing her hips side to side to Portuguese daytime music. She was in New York City, unafraid, variously distraught and perfect. It was miserable. Infinite Jest—Her Own Personal Tome—lay by the bedside, well-leafed and loved and finished now, quite very well finished. She had, as beautifully blond Charlie had predicted she would, “thrown it against the wall” at page 981. It wasn’t the end she had needed, Dave. God DAMN it. Not the end she needed, wanted, desired to come face to face with. And now she was feeling like she would refuse to let it, her Own Personal Tome, go—like, she would refuse to let it leave whatever room she was choosing to Occupy, you know, to the point in the expected future which she could guess at with an accuracy (sales analysis and data projection being her current intern work project, obviously) where she would carry it abstractedly under her arm until it became cracked and grimy and grimpy perhaps with whatever stains that holding-abook-of-weight-under-your-arm produces, really. It’s just that it took so long to finish the thing. So many hours spent reading as she was now, bathrobed angel with bleachstained sash, Portuguese daytime music not quite cutting through the noon heat as she had hoped it might. What a day she was having! She was terrified she was gaining weight, all of the weight, and had weighed herself successively on two separate scales, twice. The numbers came out differently, twice, so now she had a mild little frown running a line down her mild little face as she cocked her head farther left to stare at the tiles and decide which scale was the one worth trusting, exactly. To choose incorrectly was a serious offense, it seemed, to her moral and personal physical integrity and semiconscious awareness and general apparent state of being and upkeep. At least, that’s what she was telling herself. She also just hated the way her skin looked all stretchy and splotchy with sunburn, very far from the nice tan and smooth curves there should have been. It was all a drag and boring. Vaguely she thought of changing the song to something more distraught, maybe a limp, languid French tune to qualify her blue-puddle eyes on this here rather spectacular skyscraper day. She’d just go running, she decided, along the Hudson in the early morning and feel the creeping hand of humidity catch at her ankles as she and the rest of Healthy New York jogged their guilt driven sneakers along the surprisingly nicely paved Hudson Parkway sidewalk.


Summer in the City| Mac Taylor

Nan Munger She’d really been in a weird place lately. She’d been running a lot on this aforementioned parkway and listening (apart from the mediocrely acceptable Portuguese riffs) solely to ABBA. The holes in cheese plants had become a large concern. The color orange (Clementine, specifically) was growing on her. She had opened a can of tuna fish with a knife, earlier, and her boyfriend had yelled to stop for god’s sake stop before she cut herself and she did, she did cut herself, and then she went ahead and ate her tuna in a bowl with mustard and salt and pepper and a band aid between her thumb and first finger. It was nice that he cared, but she remained resentful all the same at being told how to live in an apartment By Herself. Later, she was on the subway to hear her childhood friend’s childhood friend play in a damn cool band and she ripped the band aid off easily. It hurt a bit, but the hurt reminded her of Her Independence, so she went ahead and indulged herself and let it sting. Later later, she would pick up the old phone and dial-a-friend cause she was In Need of A Chat.


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Penelope and the Suitors Justin Wilck This poem isn’t about you— How to describe her then? behind the microphone stand, tilt like tree limbs caught full in wind she is a prophecy tossed out aloft in bird song her teeth splashing white surf break, over and over cold lips and hot tongue, streaming out—cigarettes in the alley out back, I imagine Her flats, black, some brand I don’t know, tap down, rasp out, like wood floors murmur in the darkened night, some rhythm you cannot sleep to Her dress, some shade of blue, like no other eyes like the 4am Bay, flat-pressed and smooth under full moon’s pulse like the Sunday ground, the cooling evening, then worn-down brown earth before the Baptist church door, in summertime Her hands beat out the bass, like the weekend laundry for the line against her thigh, You can never get clean they say, and it’s the wanting of it Her eyes, like two empty evening mouths and restless nighttime bellies, There are so many years and hungers we cannot feed— in the light, glisten, then blink and skin brown, so—cannot vasoconstrict out of—into unimportance—against spotlight white, skin again still tight and agitated, on stage, fright—You never really get used to it all she laughs, some nervous deflection, habitual, would-be-casual—the light asks only Smile girl, smile I have never written a love letter to a woman before


Penelope and the Suitors | Justin Wilck

The stage light sweeps out and crests up at the crowd’s periphery, like I imagine the red morning gilds the ocean’s endless night horizon, and the sailor thinks back to home far-gone—I am reminded in this rented-out indoor amphitheater, a compass is of no help when sailing ten years— adrift, without declination, the only companions grown long-still—imagine stars—there are habits where we lose things we cannot come to think of as essential, until we need them, all sacrifices— equal, justified On the journey home, Odysseus wept seven years in Kalypso’s harbor too far for Gods and/or man to commune, but all-too necessary for long-suffering, great Odysseus—adrift (And all this he wept on the island of Ogygia) her voice, no quiet whisper of sea-wind, only surf dully crashing her hair, a brined nest of shored kelp tangles her sweat, her sex, her wet, all always salt like sea-water that taste that always leaves you wanting more, yet dissatisfying—is there nothing more poetic than the dehydrated death of slow, salt-drowning? Because the rhapsode is silent on the subject and grows cold like stale food left out untended Nobody knows Kalypso sings sweeter than Siren song because she wants you to stay, but she wants you to want to Sometimes at night, when the shore-wind marries the palm fronds and they dance in one another, cult-worship under the longing moon-face you can imagine her song, her lament— you can imagine her mouth tiding you, wade into the waves—step-sliding into beat, and you, shiver when they swallow you, whole—oh, this is, of course, only an echo When she sings the Siren’s ancient haunt who cannot listen, I swear, if home is your wish, I will grow silent and still like a room you are just now leaving, like a nest grown unwoven


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Jonathan Sington


Penelope and the Suitors | Justin Wilck

There are ghost vessels haunting the intermittent spaces, whole latitudes, which ever fold themselves together in our wake, the stony crags of every exhausting trajectory and dead men and rocks and waves familiar holes we all fall into— the liminal—threshold from alone to Alone some thing—vacant interstellar spaces There is the certain dread in knowing precisely how the day will fold itself about you, already you know Tiresias and the boy bleed together like woman and moon, like the calloused hand and the cold lyre instrument of fate’s strings— There is no particular enjoyment in this knowing She will stop singing and the room already resumes its awkward self-full, evening-heavy air— once again, collection without shared commonality, only a yearning for— when the last breath leaves, you will want to stay for a moment, to say grace, to say thanks, in communion, but already you are flowing out and down the sidewalk slant, sliding down like a tear duct streams itself clean already you are going home to write the poem Kalypso must have known it all, what man loves she cannot have alone to Herself alone A masculine question: Which is worse—my capacity for self-absolution or the feeling that I can never make it all up, if I am going to do it anyways? Tell Mom I am sorry— it was not for a lack of loving that I left I hope Goddess, monster, muse, you— Ragged inspiration Do not leave before I no longer need you. 37

Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Katherine Liu


That Easter Sunday Michaela Szabo Easter too my father was there bearing gifts and a sad small smile, shoulders hunched under his tan windbreaker, the one he still has twenty years later, and his brow aged early by the charts and drugs and bills I was too young to know. All I knew were pink-wrapped presents stacked at the end of my patient bed and egg hunts in hospital halls and pulling the IV like his heartstrings. I try to remember that on the days he comes home cold from long hours at work to feed and clothe and shelter me and answers my love with weary indifference.


Leland Quarterly | Autumn 2017

Catie Brown


Swept | Julia Freels

Swept Julie Freels

I didn’t remember last spring Except for This hard white shimmering. You dropped something, in my kitchen, Let it fall from between your fingertips, And it bounced once before it Broke into bright pieces. White shards and slices slid wildly, Scattering widely, so randomly, Underneath the stove and Between the legs of the table Where we’d just finished breakfast. For months I’d walk into my kitchen And cut up my own bare feet On the shining broken edges Of that thing you dropped, And I couldn’t figure out why I bled. My own scarlet footprints Following me in circles. I imagined that they were yours. I’ve erased all the notes you wrote In the margins of all the books you gave me And now my feet don’t feel a thing. I don’t remember last spring.


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