editor: sylvie corwin
editor: han lynch
editor: clara fletcher
volume 18 issue 4
quarterlife is a literary journal published four times a year that features poetry, short fiction, drama, creative nonfiction, analytic essays, alternative journalism, and any other sort of written work Whitman students might create, as well as sketches, drawings, cartoons, and prints. Each issue is composed around a given theme that acts as both a spark for individual creativity and a thematic axis for the issue.
quarterlife is an exercise in creative subjectivity, a celebration of the conceptual diversity of Whitman students when presented with a single theme. Each piece is ostensibly unconnected but ultimately relevant to the whole. Every work illuminates a different aspect of the theme. In this way, quarterlife magazine participates in the writing process. The magazine is not an indifferent vehicle by which writing is published, but rather is a dynamic medium with which writing is produced.
letter from the editors
This issue brings together colors, sounds, patterns, songs, and moments; fragments of things lost, found, and remembered. From daily ephemera to nighttime epiphanies, quarterlife: the patchwork issue spans the everyday and the monumental—and also just involves some cool stuff. It features work from all across campus, coming together to form something much larger.
This is the wonder of our little magazine: together we become so much more colorful, patterned, and textured than any of us could be individually, the plaid melding with paisley, polk-a-dots playing with pastels. Just like your old, worn out, sun-faded jeans, everything is better with patchwork.
In our four years of working on quarterlife, we’ve seen a patchwork of themes, from Anna’s beloved amphibious to Heleana’s darling bad to the bone, and the constant looming possibilities of space case and overgrown. We’ve seen teeth, bugged, new in town, sunroom, quarantine, and a slap in the face, not to mention for the kids, underground, culinary, and on the bathroom wall. Two weird gals! Many weird themes!
But, alas, it is time to pass the torch, alongside our collection of plastic fruit, to two new conduits of the quarterlife spirit. Congratulations to Alissa Berman and Megan Wick, the new weird-gals-in-chief. We know they will bring gusto and love to this little patch of Whitman’s campus.
So, thank you, dear reader and dear magazine for four dear years. Enjoy this last issue before quarterlife’s return in autumn.
Heleana Bakopoulos & Anna Johnston
heleana bakopoulos. . .
connor walker. . .
abby main. . .
sophie schonder. . .
kasey moulton. . .
kasey moulton. . .
zoë burleson. . .
zoë burleson. . .
zoë burleson. . .
anna wellborn. . .
zoe perkins. . .
zoe perkins. . .
ryn goldsmith zucker. . .
elie flanagan. . .
elie flanagan. . .
elie flanagan. . .
elie flanagan. . .
elie flanagan. . .
conor bartol. . .
odin mcdermott. . .
joshua cox. . .
Snake Skin Symphony
I am back in my desert after many years:
where rattlesnakes play percussion,
crickets join in string quartet,
javelinas pound the ground like timpani,
and coyote sings in soprano.
The Hamakhaave Philharmonic Orchestra
plays in Sierra Nevada Bowl
in the coolness of the night
and the wind offers his applause.
This happens out of the gaze of the sun
but when she does rise
she sings her own song
a duet with cicadas that
bleaches the landscape
Sometimes, when I try to sleep I don’t know where to rest my tongue. I don’t know where to tuck it so it won’t be chomped in pieces or chewed on the sides like I sometimes do in my waking stress. Sometimes I worry it is too far back, it is possibly blocking my airway, my breath is getting shallow. In the same moment, too far forward, undoing years of orthodontics, pushing my front teeth aside and reforming the gap my seven-year-old tongue would force water through, squirting it away in an exhilarating stream. You can never relax your tongue, but I wish I didn’t know that. The not relaxing is more painful now that I do know, and I’m worried you will feel the same now that I’ve told you of the non-neutrality of that strange organ behind and between your teeth.
I walked to a field last night. I had no desire to walk, only that the sun had flouted the socked-in nature of the last weeks and finally illuminated the space between my blinds, projecting this striped absence on the wall, bathing it in warmth. I had no desire to walk, ankle ached, head thudded. My heart was not in my throat, but it might have been in my elbows tucked close to my center. It is in the nature of a sunspot like that situated against a week like that to demand something of its viewers, and this sunset demanded to be felt more than viewed. And so I walked to the field to feel the sunset, to close my eyes against it, to watch the clouds in the way my dad had instructed me to watch shooting stars. “I don’t know what it means and I don’t care because it’s Shakespeare and it’s like having jewels in my mouth when I say the words,” Frank McCourt wrote in his memoir. I was trying to hold this particular sunset in my mouth, to roll it around and melt it on my tongue.
Let me tell you what it feels like to catch a sunset, a snowflake in time, on your tongue: Unfocused wisps, wind-carried, lash-framed, red sky at night sailor’s delight red sky at morning sailor take warning, maybe the clouds are moving but maybe actually I’m moving against them, maybe it’s all coming to a slow stop, all unfolding against Steinbeck’s “hour of the pearl,” time turning to look over its shoulder, Blue blue.
Sometimes, my earlobes whisper to my ears that I will never exist in comfortable space and that time is hurtling linearly towards the certain destruction of either a personal or a cosmic world. If uprooted, I wonder whether I would turn mulch-swath-circles vertical around me, or if instead I could be plucked, slid from soil with the ease of a maple sapling. I watch the sunset and think of the fact that humans have watched sunsets since before they could be classified as humans. Later, I fall asleep to podcasts on poetry and an audiobook of Cannery Row, the nineteen-year-old’s lullaby. Maybe this is the primal comfort of drifting off to fire-side conversation, of knowing that even in sleep you exist with and amongst and that you are actually not very separate at all.
Crescent moons, twenty of them, gently wane against carpet blue, dusk blue, bathmat. A crescent moon from each of my fingers and toes, this habit of personal maintenance has left me with twenty horizons and each with their own moon. Floss wound thrice ‘round index fingers, reaching for molars, another habit of personal maintenance. This one continues until two fingertips are blue. They are blue in this vernacular which views that which is usually red-ish and is not, in this moment, red-ish enough as being blue. It is thought to be too blue relative to its healthy state. Which is to say that my friend’s fingertips are too blue for her body, and this is what she enjoys about flossing.
I trim my fingernails and I trim my toenails and I make two fingertips too blue for my red-ish body as I reach for the residue trapped between molars. An earbud delivers my nightly human murmurings, and I think of my tongue behind and between my teeth. The timeline stretches and morphs. This line, it turns upward on one end as my earbud vibrates the troubling earlobe. It turns upward on the other end too, and it is not a line at all. It is placed gently amongst the stars, and I am placed in my bed. My tongue is placed at rest because I am not thinking about it, and this crescent which I had briefly misinterpreted as a line is but one of multiple moons, of many sunsets.
The Omnipresent Boy
growing up is lavender skies; headlights
reflecting on exit signs, melting caramel
soft serve sundaes, miles yet to go. hours
into twenty spent tripping over sidewalk cracks
under half-lit streetlights, pretending to be
grown up and brave, grinning at free baklava,
styrofoam crinkling, camera flash catching on
jacket zippers and storefronts, main empty.
growing up is jury summons and car insurance and
digital coupons, farmers market apple crisp;
ninety-eight cent vanilla bean quarts, dishes washed
in communal sinks, shoes worn in shared showers. the
implication was something more glamorous than
tucking yourself in and turning off the lights, cafeteria
food at specific hours, hallways like hotel lobbies.
growing up is saying fuck in front of your mother
without blushing, signing leases and calculating finances
and wondering when to stop cringing at marriage
announcements and baby pictures. halfway through your
tide over into adulthood and realizing you’re no closer
to growing up than you were at thirteen, learning what
growing up looks like, but not knowing how it feels;
aware of time passing, trying to capture what’s left of
the lavender before it shifts to navy and the moon
replaces daylight, string lights unplugged, alarm on.
my aunt taught me to laugh with my
whole body, head tossed back, sound
trickling to toes. mirrors and old
photos show cheekbones and
scrunched noses. it’s young and ancient,
piercing eyes, flashes of vaguely red,
resemblances carrying on and trickling
off. the passing of a name and an
heirloom, tangibility mixing with the abstract.
this is my inheritance – something
borrowed, learned, born, green.
After Pulling Back The Quilt
PANTONE Cool Gray 6 C
i’ve been falling out of pattern these days
puzzling over time gone,
nudging memories together with my chilled fingertips
looking back over moments like they’re scraps in a quilt,
each one a tick of color and feeling and smell and sound
but i’m forgetting how I got there
how I was able to feel that
staring at my sequence while it accosts me with unbearable nostalgia
wanting for a version of me sewn within its history
I breathe in the memory of my senses
until the next patch in my hodgepodge is decorated with longing and pain,
until the smell is of salt and the color is the most perfect shade of gray
what comes next, something just darling?
something to make my heart thunder and my blood rush through me like a tsunami
to make my face flush with color
yet I know what comes,
and comes again
because i’ve done all before over and over and over
it makes me nauseous, this thing
that my blood is the tides, consistent and enduring
that my heart beats its ongoing, predictable tempo
I don’t want this I don’t want this
I don’t want this candle sputtering with exhaustion
that’s all, I suppose
my blanket wraps me in all its muted technicolor
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Semi-Lucid Bathroom Fragments
ryn goldsmith zucker
a behind-the-scenes retrospective on the end of the world
drawing blanks (an array of small, hand-sewn books)
a cousin is getting married again. you are a child with a deeply rooted resentment for mandatory dancing. you can be found wandering the tables at the reception, making roses out of the ribbons in the centerpieces.
There’s a road not far from here (I marked it on the map for you in red, which was a bad idea because the roads are already in red (but I’m sure you can figure it out)) which sits on the invisible border between competing radio stations.
There’s a long, flat stretch (takes about five minutes to drive if you’re speeding, which everyone does on that road) that sits right in the sweet spot, on the thin line where the domains end and blur together. Tune your radio to the right FM (is it 90.7 or 97.0? I can never remember off the top of my head (as you know, I’ve never been one for memorization—that’s why I marked the road on the map, I’d never remember otherwise (again, sorry about the color of ink I chose)), but you’ll know it when you find it) and you’ll hear the battle for dominance between pop, classic rock, some kind of talk show (it’s too garbled to make out what they are talking about), at least three different sub-genres of country (including something called nu-country, which as far as I can tell consists of bad EDM mashups of Johnny Cash (two great tastes that decidedly do not go well together)), and a bunch more stations that would be too tedious to name.
In the nighttime, when there are no other cars (so that the only sound other than the radio is the roll of your own tires on asphalt), if you turn the radio all the way up and shut the windows tight, you can hear each station come in (at first you can hear them one at a time; then they all arrive at once (a trickle turns into a deluge), and you’re thrown back in your seat from the scream they produce as they rush out of the speakers and slam into you (it feels like a punch square in the chest)), and your car fills with the cacophony as each show or song or nu-country clamor (“song” is too dignified a word (it occurs to me now that I may have an unhealthy level of disdain for nu-country (but you can listen to it yourself and be the judge))) seeks to outdo the others (they pile on top of each other like football players (you struggle to move), they slosh around the inside of your car like water (starting with a wet heaviness in your feet, then climbing up until the sound threatens to pour into your throat and nostrils (you can barely breathe)), like cement they fill every crevice and harden (you cannot take your hands off the wheel)) until there is nothing around you but noise (static, “sound and fury signifying nothing”).
Then, if you stay like that (as if you have a choice other than paralysis), you might hear it (coming in softly, then all at once), an interference pattern as the radio waves overlap into something you can’t find on any one station (at least none I’ve ever listened to), as if a billion sounds annihilated each other at once and left just one note remaining (the last man standing), a whole symphony chopped up and Frankensteined back together, like nothing else you’ve ever heard, or maybe ever will.
By that time you should reach the end of that stretch of road, and that sound will fade back into noise (angry and discordant (as if bitter that it was supplanted for even an instant), like a swarm of hornets protesting some vast injustice), and you’ll feel like you’re drowning again, until it all leaks out (through AC vents and the edges of doors, and through that hole below your seat you should really get fixed) into the night, the noise resolving into just one station (which one doesn’t matter, you could scarcely listen now if you tried) as you cross the border.
Then, if you turn off the radio, there will be silence, not even a ringing in your ears to remind you of where you’ve been (although I would prefer tinnitus to that silence, the night seeming to swallow up the world on all sides of me).
I always drive that road alone. If I had a companion, perhaps the combined sounds of our breathing would be enough to break the silence.
At 11:32 p.m. last Thursday,
I burst into a thousand butterflies.
like a balloon, and all that was inside
were monarchs, cobweb skippers, zebra swallowtails, and pearly eyes;
no heart or lungs or muscle or bone.
Only for a moment did they hold my shape before
–a humming cloud of black-white-orange-red-brown-pink–
fluttering out my window as a flock,
nothing like the whole the thousand parts once mocked.
Each butterfly will settle,
some on nearby branches,
while others travel many months
and many miles
through blizzards and blustering winds
and place themselves on treetops I have never seen.
They will rest there, each so sure of their own place,
so sure of my multiplicity.
No net could ever capture them all.
thanks for reading!
quarterlife would like to thank the Associated
Students of Whitman College (ASWC) for their financial support, without which the production of this magazine would not be possible. Our utmost gratitude goes to the Whitman Print Shop, to our faculty advisor, Professor Gaurav Majumdar, and to our advisor, Dorothy Mukasa. A special thanks to our staff artists who produce wonderful art without credit to individual pieces. All work featured in quarterlife magazine or on the website is displayed by express permission of the author or artist, who holds all relevant copyrights to her or his work. Don’t steal their stuff.