Autumn 2020

Editor’s Note

I do not want to talk any more about “these strange times.” We know. We know very well. Let’s skip the obligatory introduction.

The uncertainty of starting this school year has only made the Leland Quarterly stronger. I am incredibly proud of and indebted to every member of the LQ staff of 2020-21, who all take precious hours out of their schedules to read submissions and come to yet more Zoom meetings. Your dedication to and passion for the arts makes me confident in the future of this magazine. Thank you.

But art does not exist in a vacuum. It never has. It is a place to express ourselves in the face of a constantly changing, tumultuous world; it is necessary for understanding this world. For the cover of this issue of LQ, we collaborated with contributing artist Catherine Wang to highlight one of the many pressing issues of our present: the California wildfires. Those at Stanford and in the Bay Area will remember the way the sky fell orange earlier in the year, the way it made the world dark. The fires of 2020 were the worst for California in its modern history, burning over 4 million acres of land — more than 4 percent of the entire state — and pushing tens of thousands of people out of their homes in the midst of a global pandemic.

There are still ways to help. On the following page, along with Catherine’s artist statement about her piece, is a basic list of resources you can donate to. We encourage you to read more about the wildfires and global warming, about the people who have lost their homes and lives, and to take action in any way you can. And of course, we encourage you to keep creating.


American Red Cross
Direct Relief
The Salvation Army
California Fire Foundation
Wildland Firefighter Foundation
California Community Foundation — California Wildfire Relief Fund
Latino Community Foundation — California Wildfire Relief Fund
Center for Disaster Philanthropy — California Wildfires Recovery Fund
United Way — West Coast Wildfire Relief Funds

Autumn 2020 Poetry

your face

the night before you left, that night 
the ashtray was just out of reach. 
gray-white flakes, weightless as dreams, 
drifted through the cracks in the table.
Autumn 2020 Poetry

i do what i can from where i am

i miss the air tinged with smoke, remnants
of burning prairie. i miss all the trees infested, 
then splintered, cut down. when i return, the street is bare, 
but i am relieved to smell the air sweet 
with thunderstorms. the glowing blue of evening
even the ants that crawl across my skin when i am too still. 

in fear of falling once again into the pull 
of inertia, i took my time, listened closely
soft voices in morning, wind whispering through leaves  
i was grateful when the birds returned. i let pain, slivers
of it, dissolve slowly.

these last few summer nights, i squatted 
bare legged by the window
wishing stupidly for fireworks, a fistfight.
last week i took off my glasses and thought 
this could be any street. now the quiet is an indictment
it was never enough just to mourn
Autumn 2020 Poetry

“Yet they felt about them the deep and thoughtful quiet of winter”

— for the unrequited

i can never answer you
at the moment you unhand your question
you remind me of the man who overbundles in boston,
and your question arrives
like your overcoat
dropping to the floor

i can never catch it —
these arms have grown tired, kid,
and the orange bottles in the junk drawer insist
i’ve grown up and maybe
it’s not a good enough excuse anymore
to say that i’ve released the balloon again

i can never keep the rings on my fingers
so i bury them in a childhood music box
Dad tells me cognition dictates sensation
How the daggers in the air only pinch
If you let them
except all i heard was the bile in his voice
and his crimson lie
you’re getting better

i can never
because these circuits only know disorder
i can never answer
“where do you go?”

“what do you see?”

because i am with you and scaling the alps,
i see your coat hit the floor

titular quote from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien
Autumn 2020 Visual Art

purple hour

Autumn 2020 Prose

Crossed Paths

There is a boy with blood orange hair who skips to school. There is a girl with a heart-shaped face who rides the bus.

The boy moves like a deer, his feet lightly tapping the pavement. I imagine he is a dancer, flying across the stage in great bounds. He takes a bow and red roses are thrown, surrounding him in a floral perfume. When the curtains are drawn, he pulls petals out of his hair.

He is obsessed with the names of nail polish. They fill the margins of his notebooks: Calypso Blue, Moon Yellow, Apple Blossom Pink. He buys bottles with his favorite names, mixes them together, and coats his nails with it.

He doesn’t get his license on his sixteenth birthday because he drives too fast. He stars his favorite sections in books with a purple pen. He has a dying succulent on the shelf in his bedroom. He sets reminders to water it every Tuesday. He never does.

He works at a macaron bakery on the weekends. His boss tells him he can’t sell the macarons with cracked shells, he can take them home if he wants. He handles his little brother’s favorite flavor, pistachio, a bit rougher than the rest. Sometimes he’ll bring home a random mixture of macarons, and they’ll play a flavor guessing game. The boy always lets his little brother win.

He likes to move freely; he doesn’t like tight spaces. When he’s younger, he gets stuck in a bathroom. The door isn’t opening, no matter how hard he pushes it, and he can feel the room getting smaller and smaller, the fluorescent lights getting brighter and brighter. He closes his eyes and thinks about open spaces, spaces without limits and boundaries and walls. He places his palms on the walls of the stall and pushes, imagining that he can push them over, imagining they are made of cardboard, frail and weak. He’s hot and sweaty and noxious fumes are filling his nose, and he’s desperately, desperately trying to get out. Then he turns the doorknob and he’s free.

The girl steps off the bus, and the boy brushes past her. She catches a faint scent of rose petals. The girl’s backpack is decorated with pins that say, “Jesus Loves Me” and “Got Faith?” I imagine her picking out a bright, summery dress, combing her hair and twisting it into a tight bun. She washes her face with vanilla soap until her skin is raw, her image unfamiliar. That seems to please her mom.

The girl falls in love with someone who doesn’t love her back, who can’t and never will. She drinks too much coffee, until her hands are shaking and her stomach turns. She doesn’t understand astrology, and she hates the taste of cumin.

The girl buys fifty-cent makeup at the drugstore. She rubs gold glitter on her eyelids and red ink on her lips and feels more like herself than she ever has. She comes home one day to find the glitter in the toilet, the lipstick in the trash. Her mother doesn’t talk at dinner that night.

She sits in a pew at the church, and tries to focus on the sermon, but gets distracted by the light coming through the stained glass windows. She loves the way the light bends and softens as it shines through the Virgin Mary, how it casts colorful light on the tile floor. She traces the shapes of the stained glass with her fingertip on the wooden seat of the pew. Her mother places a stiff hand on top of hers.

While heads are bent in prayer, the girl’s head is still turned upwards. She believes there’s too much beauty in the living world to worry about the afterlife.

After church, her mother places crackers with cheese, fresh berries, and mini cakes on the kitchen table. Her mother lights long candles and plays a soft song on the radio. Her father puts on a clean button down and sits in the leather chair while her mother yells at him for not helping. He tries to help. He can’t do anything right. He sits back down. The girl brings coffee or wine to the guests once they arrive. Then she sits, and she watches.

The boy and the girl pass, the vividness of their lives trailing behind them, intertwined for a moment. The memory of their passing fades like diluted watercolor.

Autumn 2020 Poetry

Time Rot

It’s not really Thursday
unless it’s Thursday,
but 7 o’clock
comes ten minutes early.
And it seems like
bathtubs drain faster than they fill
when you’re waiting.

Rooms become dark
before the sun has its chance
to disappear into the plains,
And the grass doesn’t always sway,
it’s often pushed by the wind.

But then it’s Monday morning,
and I’m searching for $4 and change
for coffee,
Before I realize the months that’ve passed
since I called my cousins
or my grandma.

Dolly Parton plays
when I put her cassette
in the decade-old stereo,
Then my mom smiles
without showing her teeth.

Kitchen towels are thrown
onto the carpeted living room floor
after I spill my wine,
And she laughs about it
while I saunter drunkenly behind the couch.

The red apples on our kitchen table
will rot
before nights
like that
repeat themselves.
And soon,
dreadfully warm
will warm the floors
of the living room,
and it’ll be Saturday morning.
Autumn 2020 Visual Art


Autumn 2020 Visual Art


Autumn 2020 Visual Art