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The Morningside Monocle

front cover

The Messenger of Spring Cunmei Zhang

Monocle Staff Editor-in-Chief Gabriella Okafor Copy Editor John Finnegan Poetry & Prose Editor Bret Matera Art Editor Liz Levin Layout Editor Connie Wang Treasurer Zachary Barker Editorial Staff Raymond Arroyo Tumise Asebiomo Kyle Chermak Brian Cunningham Mariel Mok Shikha Rawal Wicy Wang

Copyright 2019 Š by The Morningside Monocle at Columbia Law School. For more information, please visit us at www.themorningsidemonocle.com. ii

The Morningside Monocle Spring 2019


Editor’s Note When I took on the role of Editor-in-chief for the Morningside Monocle, I was slightly worried. I was worried that there might not be enough enthusiasm and space for the arts among law students. However, I have been impressed and inspired by the response that the magazine has received from students. Because of this enthusiasm and the amazing submissions that we received, we have been able to publish three phenomenal issues this school year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Editorial Board for all of their hard work this school year and for striving to put forth the very best issues that we can. I would also like to thank our staff members for volunteering with the magazine and making the experience more vibrant and communal. I would like to thank everyone who submitted to the magazine, it was a pleasure to read your work. Finally, I would like to thank our readers for taking time out of your busy law school schedules to support your classmates’ artistic endeavors. It has been an absolute honor to serve as Editor-in-chief. I have learnt so much from this role. But, with this letter, I am officially signing off from the role and passing the baton on to the incoming Editorial board for the 2019-2020 school year. I have no doubt that you will do incredible things. Good luck on your exams everyone, and I hope that you have an incredible summer. Gabriella Okafor, Editor-in-Chief


Table of Contents photography




3 4 5 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 18 18 19 20 21 vi

Tender Moments on the 1 Train Beneel Babaei Keke Napep Gabriella Okafor The Road to Prison Beneel Babaei End Mass Incarceration Beneel Babaei Gladiators Gabriella Okafor Soulmate Cunmei Zhang The Thinker Cunmei Zhang Hawker Gabriella Okafor Home Gabriella Okafor Wood on Steel Gabriella Okafor The School of Lights Gabriella Okafor Nature Untouched Gabriella Okafor Resilience Beneel Babaei Golden World Cunmei Zhang Who's Watching? Kaitlyn Karpenko Morgenlicht Kaitlyn Karpenko

25 26 27 28 30 31

Hygge Cunmei Zhang Skating Rink Beneel Babaei Silhouette Beneel Babaei Okada Gabriella Okafor A way of life Gabriella Okafor When Spring Knocks on My Window Cunmei Zhang Dawn at the Reservoir Cunmei Zhang The Journey Gabriella Okafor

art 6

Mark making, pen on paper Alexandra Nasar

poetry 2 7 20 22 24 29

prose Once Knowing Taylor Larson Aegis Kobina Quaye A Dream Deferred Nestor Almeida The Requisite Culpability Krystal Vazquez Genocide Alejandro Awad Cherit Homemaking Lydia Turnage


At the Tofu House John Finnegan


Tender Moments on the 1 Train

Beneel Babaei 1

Once Knowing Taylor Larson The way I used to walk, I now walk again tonight. Where I go comes to where I have been and always am from. All steps turn to where the heart wills, like a compass that calls out enduring love as the lodestar, leading where this feeling came first felt. Homes. All the homes, collected through precisely locked lanes, fixed and bordering firmly safe, with streets shepherding them to cul-de-sacs in comforting security. All as new as it always is old and the sights each familiar. I see the electric eyes of houses well-lived, glowing round like lit pumpkins on pikes. I see driveway hills sloped for trash lid sleds to slide upon, under terraces untrembled by worries of the day, near solid yards of splotchy grass bedded by foam and plastic figures of childish fun, with single-stacked, two-story exact, trees. Though time has long passed since I have stepped this place, these streets, I feel it on sight. I know it. For the soul once knowing, always knows. 2

Keke Napep

Gabriella Okafor

Yes, I find beauty in cemented slabs sodded so as to connect caring homes corner to corner. And how critters and children play upon them, chalk draw and crawl on them all, while the older smile with peace watching the peace of younger smiles. And the love in it all, the love— something as eternal known as the sun. For love the soul once feels, it ever knows. How these young will grow, take some goodness they know from here with them into the unneighbored world that needs more of it. Innocence; perhaps. Wonder and worry; absolutely. Enthusiasm both well-used and wild; some. To want to care and work for others; this the most. And I hope with all I have and know that they hope to make and give for others the owning love felt here. To do your greatest good takes a care and kindness that comes only from feeling you belong. And belonging means a place that you are and will always be, a place that is you wherever your steps go, for the soul once knowing, always knows.


The Road to Prison Beneel Babaei


End Mass Incarceration

Beneel Babaei 5


Aegis Kobina Quaye And so I Confined my life’s fire to a minute radius for fear of self-immolation Since  I believed  that to feel some warmth was far better than destruction. Never once thinking that stocking an ember of belief could ever override the invariable consequence of crushing grief at the hands of loss or failure.

Mark making, pen on paper Alexandra Nasar




Gabriella Okafor


Cunmei Zhang



The Thinker

Cunmei Zhang

At the Tofu House John Finnegan The rat poked its head out of the storm drain, its nose pink and gray, so small yet so frightening. Aaron shivered as he saw it, his mouth twitching in disgust. He walked to the street post where he’d locked his bike up, bending to unfasten it from the post. By the time he’d straightened, the storm drain was empty again. 25 minutes to get from the Upper West Side to 33rd and Madison. Doable. He fastened his helmet, wincing as it brushed against the soft spot near the top of his head. Then he swung a leg over his bike and headed towards the park, hitting the button on his janky detachable light. It blinked on, fluttered for a few seconds, then dimmed to nothing. Aaron sighed, checking the back blinker—that was still good, at least. Wasn’t too dark yet. He entered the park at Strawberry Fields, swerving around the crowd of John Lennon-devotees that had gathered to sing “Imagine” in a creaky, off-tune chorus. The rest of the ride was quiet for Midtown—only a few honked horns, no tourists screaming. Even the ads in Times Square felt muted. A man stepped into the bike lane as Aaron was coming down Broadway. Aaron cursed, ringing his bell furiously in hopes that the man would retreat to the sidewalk, but no such luck. He swerved again, brushing up against a box truck inexplicably parked and abandoned. The man jumped as the bike passed him, turning to stare, a dead-eyed expression of stillborn rage half-formed on his face. Aaron thought he heard the beginning of a “hey, I’m walking heyaaaaaa,” but either the bell drowned it out or the man had reconsidered as the bike turned onto 33rd. As he pedaled, the background drone of pedestrian chatter and vehicle clanks filled the air. 11

Aaron found a sign post and alighted, making sure the u-lock went through the frame, front wheel, and helmet strap before he turned and hurried down the street. His phone had buzzed twice on his way down; they were waiting for him. He peered at it as he strode down the street, grimacing as he felt the squish of a dog turd underneath his left heel. At tofu house—hurry! the text read. He sighed, scraping his shoe against the pavement as he carried on. A few minutes later and he stood outside the restaurant, its windows fogged, a crowd clustered around the doors. He eased his way through the bystanders and slipped inside, the noise assaulting him as soon as he entered. The place was huge— dozens of tables, stretching back into the depths of the building, each one filled with a chattering group gulping down sundubu. His parents and the rest of their group stood by the door, his mother peering for any sign of the waiter. “Hey Mom, Dad, kids,” he said as he walked up. Their faces—pink from the cold—brightened as they saw him. “Aaron, you made it!” his mom cooed, holding her arms out for a hug. They embraced. “Glad to see you’ve survived the first semester—almost, anyway,” she continued. He nodded. “Almost. Are we waiting on anyone?” “Nope, just our table,” his dad interjected. “You remember Joe, right?” He gestured towards the man standing beside him, thin with a melancholic look on his face. “Course,” Aaron said. “How you doing, Joe? Brought the kids, I see.” They shook hands, Joe staring at the ground. “Abe,” Joe mumbled. “You didn’t say it’d be so loud.” 12


Gabriella Okafor

His dad shrugged. “It’s the city, Joe, no place that’s quiet. Oh, thank goodness, the waiter.” A smiling Korean man came towards them, waving them back towards two tables in the corner. The children took one and immediately began to fight over the menus. Aaron, his parents, and Joe took the other. Aaron’s mom gazed in confusion at the photos in front of her. “What’s good here, Abe? I know we just had Korean food but, well, I can’t remember what any of it’s called. What was that beef dish we had last time?” She looked around for the waiter but the kids had captured him, their high-pitched questions coming fast and furious. “B something, I think,” his dad said. “Maggie would know.” “Bibimbap?” Aaron offered, but his parents and Joe shook their heads. “Bulgogi?” “Yes, that must be it, I liked that,” his mother said, waving the waiter over. “Can we get some bulgogi please?” The man jotted it down, then waited expectantly. “Anything else?” he asked after a moment, but the parents glanced helplessly at each other. “I can order for us,” Aaron said, “if you want.” Joe grunted, his parents nodding in appreciation. Aaron glanced over the menu, rattling off a quick list of things he’d tried before, hoping the parents wouldn’t be too surprised. The waiter took this down and turned to head back towards the kitchen, but his mother cried out. “Wait! Excuse me, have you—have you ever been to Iksan?” The man furrowed his brow and shook his head. Aaron cringed into his seat as his dad chuckled. “Where is that?” the waiter asked. “Iksan, it’s by—by Seoul, right?” Aaron’s dad nodded. “By Seoul,” his mom continued. “My daughter’s there! Teaching.” “Oh! Iksan,” the man said, recognition appearing on his face. “No, but I’ve heard of it—a small city, yes?” “Yes,” his mom said. “My daughter—she’s there, teaching English,” she said, a big smile breaking across her face. “She LOVES Korea.” 13


Gabriella Okafor

The waiter smiled, but the children called for him and he broke away with a muttered apology, hurrying to take their revised order. Aaron sighed as he walked away. “Mom, you know that asking if he’s heard of Iksan is like asking you if you’ve heard of—I don’t know—Jacksonville. Or Bismarck.” “Oh, it is not—Korea’s a small country!” she said. “And see? He had heard of it.” She smiled, pleased with herself. “But anyway, Aaron, how’s school?” The next half-hour passed in a blur as Aaron laid out every last thing that had happened since the semester started. There wasn’t actually that much—reading, cold calls, free lunch, more reading—but his parents seemed enthralled, their eyes leaving his face only to ooh and ah at the dishes as they rolled in. Joe kept silent, staring nervously around the room and chewing morosely on his portion as they divided the plates. Aaron asked him during a break in the questioning how his work was going, but the man shrugged. “Good,” Joe replied. “Stressful with another baby coming.” “Babies are always stressful,” Aaron’s dad said. “Right Sarah?” “Oh yes,” his mom said. “But the more you have, the more you get used to it—remember how Nora just popped right out?” Aaron grimaced as she went into more detail, describing how smooth the tenth pregnancy had been, how calm the delivery. 14

Wood on Steel

Gabriella Okafor

“Mom, can we—not?” he said, gesturing at the table. His mom laughed. “We could talk about your birth, Aaron! That wasn’t as nice, oh no—” “Actually, how about we talk about something besides birth, hmm?” Aaron interrupted. “Like, I don’t know, the garden?” “Oh, the garden. It’s going so well this year; we’ve really had a huge turnout in new people.” His mom proceeded to describe the various mulch deposits they’d made and the pest problems, his dad adding notes of color about the various personages who now tilled the earth. Joe sat, shoveling food into his mouth and wincing at the noise of the nearby tables. Aaron watched his parents with some amusement as they recounted the latest drama, occasionally glancing away to see how the children were doing. They’d ordered so much food the waiter had set up a smaller table nearby to hold the extra dishes, but their earlier enthusiasm seemed to have dissipated if the amount left over was any indicator. Aaron brushed his hair—overgrown after a semester’s worth of inattention—away from his face as he struggled to keep track of the conversation, wincing as his hand touched the sore spot up top. His fingers drifted over it, then froze. “I don’t know why Barbara insisted on buying 5 plots when she was only planning on using 2 and a half—it makes the place look bad, getting all overgrown like that,” his mother was saying as Aaron stood up. “Where are you going?” she asked. 15

“Bathroom,” he mumbled, keeping his hand at his face. He hurried towards the back, spying a stairway near the kitchen with a faded sign on it. He walked down, arriving at a dark basement with two marked doors for Ladies and Gentlemen. He knocked on the men’s—no response—and entered. The space was cramped and dim, the toilet seat left up, water unflushed from the last pisser—but it had what he needed. A mirror. He put his face close to the glass, using his hand to pull the hair away from the spot, and saw it. A black nub, peeking through the skin, half the width of his pinky. He touched it, feeling the hard, scaly surface, and recoiled. As he watched he thought he saw it grow bigger—but no, that must have been a trick of the light. Breathing hard, he ran his fingers through the rest of his hair— was there another? Thankfully they touched no resistance. “The fuck,” he said, eyes returning to the nub. “The fuck,” he said, hand touching it again, again feeling the surface. It was cold against his skin, the area around it tender to touch but itself quite hard and unfeeling. He considered, for a moment, prying it out like you would a pimple—but no, that’d be too much of a mess, his parents didn’t want to see that. He blinked a few times, turned away from the mirror, slapped himself lightly in the face, then turned back—it was still there. “Fuck,” he whispered. He had to piss. A few minutes later, he relieved himself and made sure his hair, mercifully overgrown, covered the nub. Then he walked back to his table, treading carefully up the stairs as they creaked beneath him.

The School of Lights Gabriella Okafor 16

When he returned the waiter had begun to clear away the plates, Joe and his parents having finished off the rest of the side dishes. “Ready for the museum?” his dad asked. “Supposed to be pretty good.” “Actually,” Aaron said as he eased back into his seat. “I don’t think I can do it, Dad. I was thinking—finals are right around the corner, I’ve got a lot of outlining to do. You guys go without me—I’ve gotta get back uptown.” “You sure?” his dad asked. “Can’t take a little more time off? Thought this was one of your favorites.” Aaron shook his head, resisting the urge to check if his hair stayed in place over the nub. “I really shouldn’t.” His mom protested a bit, Joe murmuring his agreement, but in the end, they let him go, all piling out of the restaurant together, the children carrying large bags worth of leftovers that they’d refused to eat. “Come see us more often,” his mother said as she hugged him goodbye. “The bus doesn’t take that long! The kids miss you on game night.” “I will, I will,” Aaron promised, turning to shake Joe’s hand, who took it with the same lack of enthusiasm he had when they first met. He waved goodbye to the children, who clamored something in response, then turned to his father, who gave him a long look. “We miss you, son,” his dad said as they shook. “Don’t let the city and school change you too much, alright?” Aaron nodded. “I’ll try, dad. I’ll try.” As they turned and walked further uptown towards the museum, his hand drifted towards his face again, feeling the nub, cold against his skin. It was bigger than the last time he touched it; he was quite sure.


Nature Untouched Gabriella Okafor



Beneel Babaei

Golden World

Cunmei Zhang


Who's Watching?

Kaitlyn Karpenko

A Dream Deferred Nestor Almeida What happens to a Dream deferred? Does it burn out eventually, Or is the Passion transferred? What happens to a Dream unrealized? Does it linger in our minds Until policies are revised? What happens to a Dream denied? Will our outrage be enough, Or will that, too, subside? What happens to a Dream that goes unspoken? Can we ever heal, Until we accept what is broken? What happens to our Dream when we are gone? Will it be buried with us, Or will it live on?



Kaitlyn Karpenko A Dream deferred by actions not taken, Will poison the progress we are making If we allow this Dream to die, It will not be just us who will cry The children of those not as privileged as we Will be stunted from becoming all they can be The future will consist of further division Until we can make that final decision To change the laws of this rigid nation Will require more than just litigation We will all need to stand up and unite For all that we know to be right Our Dream has been deferred for far too long It is our time to show America we belong ~ADN 21

The Requisite Culpability Krystal Vazquez evidence of the end: mattress shipwrecked on bland Ikea slats, corners dipping into the dust below cold, silenced, timeless oven icicle showers complimenting the coming Christmas and the most pivotal condo pipe clogged. This evidence is not being offered for the truth but the effect on the listener. words crash on him like a boombox cracking a flat screen television in two ceramic skull brought back from Mexico hurled into potato chip detritus, drawing of our big dipper main street dallies with the dust bunnies. I now offer and accept exhibit 12H into evidence. early summer: I seek skin like mine, his afro thirsty for the downpour he surveys light with me in chelsea time travels to a 1980’s east village our brown fingers weaving between the galleries, bruise blossoms – mustard, eggplant, forest moss – sprouting at dawn beneath blazers that type memos in the sky and savor modern lobster fricassee next to a courtyard snowman topping off July. 22

Now, tell us, briefly and in substance. august: bus ride back to the broken, he gets the check and tells me to meet him in the bathroom of the A & D, the mirror reflects the imperfect ovals, teeth footprints another mouth made in Harlem but, here, bucked against porcelain in Shaw his pipes now healthy, unencumbered. Remember, grand jurors, your memory of the testimony controls. drinking a “Siberian candidate� he made a joke about my DNA: it is the sweetest fruit of colonialism. and in the bar bathroom, he melts down my leg to the envy of candle wax fingers pressed firmly to the mirror my brown horse hair in his alabaster hands and trauma pools in my veins before dripping on the ivory tile.


Cunmei Zhang 23

Skating Rink

Beneel Babaei

Genocide Alejandro Awad Cherit In the instant case nobody died But oh my God, everything hurts so much. In general, all crimes are committed out of vengeance. Every gift is an act of redress. Any hug, a search for forgiveness.


Beneel Babaei 24



Gabriella Okafor


A way of life

Gabriella Okafor


When Spring Knocks on My Window Cunmei Zhang


Homemaking Lydia Turnage Say you wanted to put it back together, the house and the home and the life now called Before — You wouldn’t need much, just the cherry tree, its blossom and rot, a handful of silt dug deep from the creek bed, the smell of wet dog, the cat you abandoned and the front door you kept, unhinged for the value of its patterned glass. Of course, these things won’t be easy to come by. I don’t know how, in another time and place, you could capture summer’s green creep of vines over your grandmother’s rosebush, the rough catch of shingles, still sun-warm, where we sat on the roof and passed the early hours, or the embers, stoked from burn season’s backyard smolders, that pricked the night like so many dying stars.


Dawn at the Reservoir Cunmei Zhang 30

The Journey

Gabriella Okafor


Profile for The Morningside Monocle

The Morningside Monocle - Spring 2019  

The Morningside Monocle - Spring 2019