Hannah Bishop

in collaboration with wetlands scientist, Carolyn Gorss

Oxidized Rhizospheres













Hannah Bishop received her MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is originally from New Jersey and now lives in Japan. She works in a gastroenterology office but usually prefers reading poems to looking at pictures of intestines. Her work has appeared in Noble / Gas Qtrly, Seneca Review, Eye Flash Poetry, ellipses, Faultline, and Yes Poetry.

Carolyn Gorss is a Professional Wetland Scientist working in Massachusetts. She received her BS in Environmental Science and MS in Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her love of the natural world fuels both her work and hobbies. Carolyn enjoys practicing art (@cgorss_art on Instagram), reading, exploring, birdwatching, and tending to her indoor plants.

Douglas Piccinnini







Douglas Piccinnini is the author of Victoria (Bloof Books, 2019), Blood Oboe (Omnidawn, 2015) and Story Book: a novella (The Cultural Society, 2015). Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming with Brooklyn Rail, Colorado Review, Fence, Lana Turner, Nat. Brut, and Tammy.

Emma Hyche


(Google) Mapping Didion’s California

It was the faraway times before quarantine when I thought of travelling to California this spring, to my favorite town in the Sierra Nevada’s at the edge of the Tahoe National Forest near where the Yuba River splits. I’ve travelled there twice alone around this time of year, to read and write in solitude and let the architecture of my mind settle around me on the ground, where I can study it more clearly. It is a California that remains a little strange, with towns named Red Dog and You Bet and Gold Spot and Rough and Ready. With the onset of the COVID-19 virus and the cessation of nearly all travel, those plans faded, and I started reading Joan Didion instead.

Didion to me represents a California of the mind—a California that might survive under the slick homogenization, globalization, and standardization that seems to afflict most places, not just California. Didion’s writing about California has impressed itself upon me for the entirety of my writing life more strongly than any other author’s on any place. In nostalgia and nonfiction, rather than the world unmediated, every detail of my mind’s California becomes suffused with an inward glow. That’s what good writing can do: create a world that is like the world we know, but more magical, unexpected, and ultimately more unknowable.

When I can’t travel, I read, and when I’m done reading, I look on Google Maps at the locations I’ve read about. This document collects these locations and pairs them with their relevant Didion passages from her collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The essay “Notes from a Native Daughter,” from which much of these images are drawn, contains Didion at her most autobiographical and romantic of the collection, contrasting the Sacramento and California of her youth with what remains in 1965. These snapshots of Didion’s locations are meant to form a third leg to the essay’s dualism of now and then. Some of the places are much the same, while most are unrecognizable or gone entirely. Combing the virtual landscape on Google Maps is an attempt to grasp Didion’s California in its particularity, its idiosyncrasy, and its singularity.

The relevant text passages precede, and the Google Maps images follow.



8488 Bella Vista Dr.

Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91701

“There was talk of unhappiness, talk of another man. That kind of motive, during the next few weeks, was what they set out to establish. They set out to find it in accountants’ ledgers and double-indemnity clauses and motel registers, set out to determine what might move a woman who believes in all the promises of the middle class—a woman who had been chairmen of the Heart Fund and who always knew a reasonable little dressmaker and who had come of the bleak wild of prairie fundamentalism to find what she imagined to be the good life—what should drive such a woman to sit on a street called Bella Vista and look out her new picture window into the empty California sun and calculate how to burn her husband alive in a Volkswagen.”

(“Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream”, 1966)

Hyche 1



16756 Chico Corona Rd. / The CA Institution for Women

Corona, CA 92880

The California Institution for Women at Frontera, where Lucille Miller is now, lies down where Euclid Avenue turns into country road, not too many miles from where she once lived and shopped and organized the Heart Fund Ball…On visitors’ day there are big cars in the parking area, big Buicks and Pontiacs that belong to grandparents and sisters and fathers (not many of them belong to husbands), and some of them have bumper stickers that say “SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL POLICE.”

A lot of California murderesses live here, a lot of girls who somehow misunderstood the promise.”

(“Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream”, 1966)

Hyche 2



7000 Romaine Street

Los Angeles, CA 90038

Seven thousand Romaine Street is in that part of Los Angeles familiar to admirers of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett: the underside of Hollywood, south of Sunset Boulevard, a middle-class slum of “model studios” and warehouses and two-family bungalows. Because Paramount and Columbia and Desilu and the Samuel Goldwyn studios are nearby, many of the people who live around here have some tenuous connection with the motion-picture industry. They once processed fan photographs, say, or knew Jean Harlow’s manicurist. 7000 Romaine looks itself like a faded movie exterior, a pastel building with chipped art moderne detailing, the windows now either boarded up or paned with chicken-wire glass and, at the entrance, among the dusty oleander, a rubber mat that reads WELCOME.

Actually, no one is welcome, for 7000 Romaine belongs to Howard Hughes, and the door is locked.”

(“7000 Romaine, Los Angeles 38”, 1967)

Hyche 3



9122 Compton Ave (former site of the Communist Party U.S.A.)

Watts, CA 9002

“Not long ago I spent some time with Michael Laski, down at the Workers’ International bookstore in Watts, the West Coast headquarters of the Communist Party U.S.A. (Marxist-Leninist). We sat at a kitchen table beneath the hammer-and-sickle flag and the portraits of Marx, Engels, Mao Tse-tung, Lenin, and Stalin (Mao in the favored center position), and we discussed the revolution necessary to bring about the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

(“Comrade Laski, C.P.U.S.A. (M.-L.)”, 1967)

Hyche 4



742 Arguello Boulevard

San Francisco, CA 94118

“Somebody other than Jane Lisch gave me an address for Chester Anderson, 443 Arguello, but 443 Arguello does not exist. I telephone the wife of the man who gave me 443 Arguello and she says it’s 742 Arguello.

“But don’t go there,” she says.

I say I’ll telephone.

“There’s no number,” she says. “I can’t give it to you.”

742 Arguello,” I say.

“No,” she says. “I don’t know. And don’t go there. And don’t use either my name or my husband’s name if you do.””

(“Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” 1967)

Hyche 5



847 Montgomery Street (former site of Ernie’s Restaurant)

San Francisco, CA 94133

“It is very easy to sit at the bar in, say, La Scala in Beverly Hills., or Ernie’s in San Francisco, and to share in the pervasive delusion that California is only five hours from New York by air. The truth is that La Scala and Ernie’s are only five hours from New York by air. California is somewhere else.”

(“Notes from a Native Daughter,” 1965)

Hyche 6



Capital City Freeway over the American River

Sacramento, CA 95821

“…I remember swimming (albeit nervously, for I was a nervous child, afraid of sinkholes and afraid of snakes, and perhaps that was the beginning of my error) the same rivers we had swum for a century: the Sacramento, so thick with silt that we could barely see our hands a few inches beneath the surface; the American, running clean and fast with melted Sierra snow until July, when it would slow down, and rattlesnakes would sun themselves on its newly exposed rocks.”

(“Notes from a Native Daughter,” 1965)

Hyche 7



Trinity Church

2620 Capital Ave

Sacramento, CA 95816

“When summer ended—when the State Fair closed and the heat broke, when the last green hop vines had been torn down along the H street road and the tule fog began rising off the low ground at night—we would go back to memorizing the Products of Our Latin American Neighbors and to visiting the great-aunts on Sunday, dozens of great-aunts, year after year of Sundays. When I think now of those winters I think of yellow elm leaves wadded in the gutters outside the Trinity Episcopal Pro-Cathedral on M Street. There are actually people in Sacramento now who call M Street Capitol Avenue, and Trinity has one of those featureless new buildings, but perhaps children still learn the same things there on Sunday mornings:

  1. In what way does the Holy Land resemble the Sacramento Valley?
  2. In the type and diversity of its agricultural products.”

(“Notes from a Native Daughter,” 1965)

Hyche 8



California State Route 99

Central Valley, CA

“A hundred miles north of Los Angeles, at the moment when you drop from the Tehachapi Mountains into the outskirts of Bakersfield, you leave Southern California and enter the Valley. ‘You look up the highway and it is straight for miles, coming at you, with the black line down the center coming at you and at you…and the heat dazzles up from the white slab so that only the black line is clear, coming at your with the whine of the tires, and if you don’t quit staring at that line and don’t take a few deep breaths and slap yourself hard on the back of the neck you’ll hypnotize yourself.

Robert Penn Warren wrote that about another road, but he might have been writing about the Valley road, U.S. 99, three hundred miles from Bakersfield to Sacramento, a highway so straight that when one flies on the most direct pattern from Los Angeles to Sacramento one never loses sight of U.S. 99.

(“Notes from a Native Daughter,” 1965)

Hyche 9



The convergence of the American and Sacramento Rivers

38°35’54.0″N 121°30’30.3″W

Sacramento, CA 95833

“The Sacramento, the American, sometimes the Consumnes, occasionally the Feather. Incautious children died every day in those rivers; we read about it in the paper, how they had miscalculated a current or stepped into a hole down where the American runs into the Sacramento, how the Berry Brothers had been called in from Yolo County to drag the river but how the bodies remained unrecovered.”

(“Notes from a Native Daughter,” 1965)

Hyche 10



I Street Arch

Modesto, CA 95354

 “…the Valley towns understand one another, share a peculiar spirit. They think alike and they look alike. I can tell Modesto from Merced, but I have visited there, gone to dances there; besides, there is over the main street of Modesto an arched sign which reads:



There is no such sign in Merced.”

(“Notes from a Native Daughter,” 1965)

Hyche 11



Larchmont Riviera neighborhood

La Riviera, CA 95826

“The Sacramento papers, however, simply mirror the Sacramento peculiarity, the Valley fate, which is to be paralyzed by a past no longer relevant. Sacramento is a town which grew up on farming and discovered to its shock that land has more profitable uses. (The chamber of commerce will give you crop figures, but pay them no mind—what matters is the feeling, the knowledge that where the green hops once grew is now Larchmont Riviera, that what used to be the Whitney ranch is now Sunset City, thirty-three thousand houses and a country-club complex.) It is a town in which defense industry and its absentee owners are suddenly the most important facts; a town which has never had more people or more money, but has lost its raison d’etre.”

(“Notes from a Native Daughter,” 1965)

Hyche 12



Florin Rebekah Lodge 20

8360 Florin Road

Florin, CA 95838

“But I could take you a few miles from there into towns where the banks still bear names like The Bank of Alex Brown, into towns where the one hotel still has an octagonal-tiled floor in the dining room and dusty potted palms and big ceiling fans; into town where everything—the seed business, the Harvester franchise, the hotel, the department store and the main street—carries a single name, the name of the man who built the town. A few Sundays ago, I was in a town like that, a town smaller than that, really, no hotel, no Harvester franchise, the bank burned out, a river town. It was the golden anniversary of some of my relatives and it was 110 degrees and the guests of honor sat on straight-backed chairs in front of a sheaf of gladioluses in the Rebekah Hall. I mentioned visiting Aerojet-General to a cousin I saw there, who listened to me with interested disbelief. Which is the true California? That is what we all wonder.”

(“Notes from a Native Daughter,” 1965)

Hyche 13



7257 Sunset Boulevard

West Hollywood, CA 90046

“It is three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and 105 degrees and the air is so thick with smog that the dusty palm trees loom up with a sudden and rather attractive mystery. I have been playing in the sprinklers with the baby and I get in the car and go to Ralph’s Market on the corner of Sunset and Fuller wearing an old bikini bathing suit. That is not a very good thing to wear to the market but neither is it, at Ralph’s on the corner of Sunset and Fuller, an unusual costume.”

(“Los Angeles Notebook,” 1965-1967)

Hyche 14



Former Home of Harvey Rawlings, Atty.

307 Tamarac Drive

Pasadena, CA 91105

“The longest single Santa Ana period in recent years was in 1957, and it lasted not the usual three or hour days but fourteen days, from November 21 until December 4. On the first day 25,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains were burning, with gusts reaching 100 miles an hour…On November 22 the fire in the San Gabriels was out of control…On November 26 a prominent Pasadena attorney, depressed about money, shot and killed his wife, their two sons, and themselves.”

(“Los Angeles Notebook,” 1965-1967)

Hyche 15



Alcatraz Island

San Francisco, CA 

“Any child could imagine a prison more like a prison than Alcatraz looks, for what bars and wires there are seem perfunctory, beside the point; the island itself was the prison, and the cold tide its wall. It is precisely what they called it: the Rock.”

(“Rock of Ages,” 1967)

Hyche 17



CA HWY-1/Cabrillo Highway

San Simeon, CA 93452

“’Happiness’ is, after all, a consumption ethic, and Newport is the monument of a society in which production was seen as the moral point, the reward if not exactly the end, of the economic process. The place is devoid of the pleasure principle…And it was not as if there were no other options for these people: William Randolph Hearst built not at Newport but out on the edge of the Pacific. San Simeon, whatever its peculiarities, is in fact la cuestra encantada, swimming in golden light, sybaritic air, a deeply romantic place. But in Newport the air proclaims only the sources of money.”

(“The Seacoast of Despair,” 1967)

Hyche 18



I append this piece after months of quarantine, of closed circular orbits between work, home, the grocery store, and back. I’m still trawling Google Maps in substitution for the movement denied me by nothing I can control. I wind along the roads of California near Folsom Lake, past gated houses and evergreens and hills of pale tan gravel. I cursor in parallel to the Feather River running south down the center of California like a spine. Between clicks the seasons change, from high summer to drizzly fall. The miasma of dust kicked up by the car I’m not driving but sit in, the spice of orange groves in the air. Rust on highway girders. A slow brown creek. Beached boats in the yards of ranch houses. A trace clings to my cursor finger—red like a cedar limb when you split it open.

In plague-time, I’ve become very conscious of the borders of my body, and how their permeability may be a threat. My body strews imperceptible molecules and vapors that may be tainted without my knowledge, over which I can only layer strips of fabric and chemicals. My body exudes what may be poison, only I don’t know it yet. In Didion’s novel Play It As It Lays, the protagonist meditates on “where her body stopped and the air began, about the exact point in space and time that was the difference between Maria and other.” Perhaps I am always trying to find that point. Perhaps there is no distinction that matters—I am boundaryless, porous, and always already a threat, whether sitting on my porch in the rain, or hovering over California, poised eternally above winding gray asphalt.


Emma Hyche is a poet and essayist currently based in Denver, Colorado. A winner of the 2016 AWP Intro Journals Prize and a recent MFA graduate, her work appears in ApartmentTimberDreginaldEntropy, and elsewhere.


Brent Cox



Warning: this video contains photostrobic effects that could trigger seizures. If you are sensitive to such effects, please proceed with caution, or do not watch the video.


Brent Cox is a PhD Candidate in University at Buffalo’s Poetics Program. He is the founder of the Topological Poetics Research Institute and Ecopoetry Workshop, and he works on mediated poetics.

Jay Aquinas Thompson


from Poor & Carefree Strangers


The island tugs madrone & starfish on like a shirt,

stands naked later to be scrubbed down to its shale, rainbows of gray,

people hopping across it like sandfleas




3 a.m.


Riddling charm, riddling charm,

the moon drags its mineral light through my arm



I’m made of sexy vibrant running blood







7 a.m.


Two little yellow deciduous something or others

stir in the breeze,

the hammock too, empty but

moving like it’s alive, alive but

asleep. Peed

in the most private

shrub I could manage.




11 a.m.


Thompson 2

Little crab buries itself in the

shell rubble of the tide pool.

Vituperation and longing, names

for constellations, the torturer’s

tenderness all fade to

outlines or nothings

on the island’s time:

weak croak of the passing eagle:

one Jay thinks, that’s all the song ourThompson 3

stupid country deserves, while

another Jay

obsesses as the ants do over

an eagle-leaving at tide-line, a long

bleached leaf-fine unidentifiable





Drifting Contours I Fill In


Dorian’s foot innocent of weight

         & rough resisting earth repeats

             the coils—floating sleek

         silhouetted—of bull kelp spooled out

straight later by high tide



                    Dalwhinnie 15-year the color of

                       dry (EXTREME FIRE HAZARD) grass the bottle

                   rests on


                         garbage bag bulging

     like the abdomen of madame la vespa

          sipping muddy water at the pump


                                     soapy sunrise glow of the dishwater


                      princess from the next

                                    shoreside site

                            twirls her scepter index-finger addressing her

                      invisible subjects

                           from her balustrade

                                    of shale



2 p.m.

Big red rain-faded barn         Ropy maroon-tipped                  At the winery someone

                                                   blackberries                                says of their friend (?)

with a silver Acura                                                                        “All they do is take Ubers

small in the milking-               Money’s one local                       and

stall                                            invasive, our faded                     order Uber Eats!

                                                   American cash & bright

                                                   miles cards no





            The blanket I’d hung over head and shoulders

            to keep off the heat of the sun got hot

             & the osprey

            scre-e-e-e-e-eamed & dived, hit the water


            & came up

            empty in the hot dust dream of our day…



In the water’s beaten green-bronze-black



Stone: the old mud

folded & pressed, folded & pressed

its lichen leaven…


Thompson 4

The rip-and-scamper fracas of tide pool,

abrading wave abrading wave abrading salty wave,

little indentations of the mink’s running feet…

One-eyed barnacle larva tumble

over rock already crowded with

barnacles     like me with all these

great patches & no room on my clothes to sew them on.


Thompson 5Nature not a rest or respite but an answering

spirit, quick in fir and rainbow oil-gloss,

slow in tonguing back at the glacier.





                                 Prayers like rolling one stone over another:


if I don’t bring

more of myself to my commitments

I’m going to freak out and quit them all.




Salt-poisoned cedar trees tipped into the bay, bark

bleached white: aqua top and black trackshorts

airdrying on a rock, leaving black

shadow-damp short-and-top-print selves below.

              * Thompson 6

                              What are an island’s virtues?

                              Some kind of im-

                              memorial stony

                              slow ache it makes over:

                              in bunches of

                              madrone, beetle-eaten


                              the unflagging goodwill of


                              shale gapping far

                              enough for ants who

                              scavenge this tide’s left-



                              anemone shred,

                              red vivid smash

                              of crab?…



Tired of the Self I Meet in the Broom Grass’s Mirror


This bare buzzing meadow is nice

     but it returns to myself only myself

& its kind of wild half-asleep subjectivity

     that measures its thirst out

in months & its sex in fragile

     furry once-a-year upthrusts : I can’t imagine it growing

green though I figure it must : the grass and I have

     only so much we can

say to each other : 20 feet away

     in shade

there’s such a thing as

     my friends too with foreign-feeling griefs & satis-

factions outside (say) their theater of vibration

     minerals muddy water & a blooming that’s

on the very edge of death—




Thompson 7










Simmer-shadow-splash of the gas stove’s flame

cast in continuous motion

onto the bench: you hold

too hard onto an old intimacy with

no life but the life of story

at the cost of really feeling

the love like an unbroken wave

bearing you: you make yourself immovable.






11 p.m.


Mars shaken to pieces on the water:

the fire’s orange reflection on the underside of the leaves





Jay Aquinas Thompson is a poet, essayist, and teacher with recent or forthcoming work in Pacifica Literary Review, Passages North, Jubilat, Tammy, COAST | NoCOAST, Full Stop, and Poetry Northwest, where they’re a contributing editor. They’ve been awarded grants and fellowships from the Community of Writers, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and King County 4Culture. They live with their child in Washington state, where they teach creative writing to incarcerated women.

Margaret Wiss


Island to Island


Margaret Wiss is a choreographer, educator, and performer who holds an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts. Under the name Wiss.co, she has choreographed for PDX Contemporary Ballet, North Atlantic Dance Theatre, The Harvard Ballet Company, and the danceBARN Festival. This dancefilm, Island to Island, was created in collaboration with composer Colin Minigan, the dancers, and the landscapes of Islesford, ME and New York City. It is a quartet of justaposed environments and duets exploring the in-between, places of transition, of comings and goings and how individuals make decisions. A film of the interpersonal and inter-place.

Melissa Buckheit


Essay: A Last and First View, Connemara

Now, after long wanderings [philosophy] has regained the memory of nature and of nature’s former unity with knowledge… Then there will no longer be any difference between the world of thought and the world of reality. There will be one world…   ~ Schelling

      My foot has never alighted onto this soil in the Conmhaicne Mara, Iar Connaught. I’ve never seen it with my own eyes. Yet, I’ve dreamed of it if to dream is to know a place before you’ve ever arrived, to feel in it, stone ruin to tree to human, a sovereignty, a divinity and world coexistent beyond the seen—in your bones as memory and fate. Just as when I sit with you in the haven of green trees, flowers and vines, alone in a beauty and feeling spoken between us through time. A beyond-speaking as the rustle of silven trees moves with the wind. When I return, the stone may speak to me in the voice of an ancestor, if I can hear a story in the place, the cadences of language that existed and may still exist. What am I given to do in that land, on that island? I can listen to you from great distances in a thread in time, so that twenty years is another lifetime and only a moment—so that to see one another again is yesterday, and also tomorrow. The land calls me, calls me back, for it is open enough still, neither hacked nor blunted in the material dissociation. It exists beyond and within time and space, as an incontestable substance between air and rock and tree and weather which has always been—and was once known and lived alongside this singular world we think of as reality. In it, there is a knowing, a being, a feeling and a speech beyond hierarchy or duality. Rather, it is a circle, a veil and all things and beings exist within and through it, like the freedom and wilderness of space, but on Earth. We lose our edges and to be there is only being, alongside the element and vibration of things, their consciousness. As water is—each stone and tuft of grass is a nexus. We can go, too, for the body is an opening. It has always been. A part of me has always existed (here, there)—I’ve never left. When I walk alone, outside, it is so. We must find it again, unwinding suffering from before into the Oneness; we always seek it. Each rock is humming, rock, rock, our home that coalesced from inertia. The body in its impulse can do it, just as plant or sea can. 

      Your face arrived like the sun before me, and your mind, as it had always been—kind and keen and intelligent, unspoiled and idealistic. There is the listening there, in the air, the possibilities of the electric brain, the being we had been doing for years outside of time. Like a heavy blush of fragrant lilac in its spectacular weight in the palm, what isn’t known yet but already acquainted angles itself in consciousness between minds beyond the calendar, through the space of distance and land. Would I arrive before you like the smallest swallow curving on the easy seven o’clock breeze of late May, near what appears to be the horizon and the painter’s brushstroke of translucent blue, a studding cloud? It glows. I may arrive in Ireland over time and unknown, yet familiar and home. There is the far top of a brown chimney and the peaking gray of a cottage roof through the hedge of lilac, which meet and continue this sanctuary of green, Connecticut. You are my home, akin with this and that far thing I enter outside—and in the laying on of hands. To find a heaven on this Earth, we reach through to another space humans once knew.

Buckheit map

      I didn’t have the names and places, nor the papers always made about people that prove they existed. I had to go back to find them. For years before I went the first time (only a day), they kept arriving as the absence of a name or town, the question, the missing information or unspoken secret, the conversation I could never have, the migration unmapped. They kept arriving in the years after until I returned to search for them on foot. Still, such things remain hidden because it is their nature. One thatched cottage was no different than another, one hundred, one hundred and forty years ago. They were unremarkable, the most common home, thousands as such, in that seeking my great great great grandfather’s home, even with a photograph, it remained hidden. Even the streets have no names and no numbers; there is a hill or a mountain, there is its view noted on a letter’s heading, there are the gravestones I couldn’t find among five cemeteries—for a particular parish priest served and serves five such towns. The archaeological landmarks, however multitudinous, unique or common, were mostly hidden as well or only visible on a map, belonging in the yard of this farmer or on a hilltop through pastured green meadows and five gates, not visible from roads. Still, people traverse them—hillwalking is the unspoken rule. The Earth is whispering, the literal dirt is whispering, it holds close what is sweet, potent, once voluble, electric in the earth, known by peoples long ago. It will not divulge, for the land is unaltered, the stones that make the shape of each site—ruined house, cillin, ring fort, unconsecrated or consecrated cemetery, standing stone, ruined church, castle, well, passage tomb—are the same and make the land. They are not separate from it, but are the land, the people. So one may travel as and in energy to a place before, to a place beyond or in the spirit of each blade and magnetized iron furr. 


     Each arrangement of stones and earth was made for the daily, and the other realms, multimodal worlds, because only conceptions of dimension limit us with/in time. Each name is what we call them, but their location in the countryside is no metageography. It cannot concede north or sound, is hardly locable/located, and deems no power with a name. Each name is the same as repeated and together, the aerial view is most like chaos theory. No one can own them and no one wishes to.

Buckheit chart

      I found them in books and on websites, the names and the stones, in the scanned remains of marriage documents and property records, in boat manifests, in censuses and in photographs left behind by second and third cousins, their original letters in voices I could not really imagine. I had to go back because of the loss of memory in the family after suffering (as with all families)—we have not lost memory but we don’t have the bodies and the opening within to speak, to hear. Nor can we hear the dead, we lose places, people and their names. We forget the stones, their intimacy. We don’t know how to hold them. It is too difficult to stand in the pain of people or their absence, yet impossible to not. Pain is everywhere—in the rocks in our backyards, covered in moss, which we do not see. So is pleasure, so is the nothing. In the success of oppression, we began to unlearn the language of intimacy, the warm circle of home and bodies, their soft, furred thoraxes exposed so tenderly. The rock is our ancestor, is a beacon and a telephone, an ocean and a chime through time. How the Japanese Knotwood rebalances the soil, so we should not kill it. We forget how to caress the one we love, and we can’t feel our mother’s embrace, no matter how hard we try. The rocks might be nothing in our new American or Irish homes. Even as they sit, they sift through the landscape—and the landscape speaks. 


      I slept in villages that were a road, a slip of narrow dirt to another village inside a parish or a town—and any of the houses could be a collection of stones humming my family name. Each village was one. It is only the American who searches and finds it remarkable to collect the stone, walk the lane, or speak to a far cousin descended from the brother of a fourth great grandfather. Or is it? That is a lie. There is so much in America, and we are mostly a country of immigrants, where to come is to arrive unable to keep two narratives, two names, even though we must. The spelling isn’t the same and what we thought we escaped may be what we missed. It’s not nostalgia, however potent and real, but longing, like the vowels we want to hold in our mouths. It’s the stones and how they speak when we touch them. Even without them, (are they markers for feeling, experience, travel) it is possible to go. In the history (our brains), there is being on the land, in the silence of green and what was before, even if we don’t know it, and we can’t tell it. I’ll tell a little of my own. They took a last look and it is clear why. They were starving and nearly lost from the land and their own ways, starved of their vital selves. They were sifting the Colonial. It is a thing anew, this Ireland today, for I took a first breathe in the wild—and I could. Places hold the weight of whatever came before, gift and slaved. Just as I came home to home, a New England. Don’t fear the wild. Listen to your new and old language.

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     My great-great-great-great grandfather lived in what is now Connemara National Park, 2,957 hectares of land, barren and plentiful, along the Wild Atlantic Way:  mountain range, woodlands, blanket bog, lough, wet heath and grassland. Clifden and Letterfrack are served by the civil parish of Baile na Cille or Ballinakill, where a cemetery stands along the river Lee that feeds into the sea. My great great great grandfather, Michael and his daughter after him, Brigid, rest there, nearest to the small Catholic Church overseen by Father –, even still in 1930–. My great great grandmother, Brigid, mother of six, notes in a letter from 19—that she obtained the birth certificate of her sister to send back to America. She writes her sister and later notes that my great grandmother is excited to immigrate, having just had her immunizations. Michael Connelly wrote wry and sweet letters to his daughters abroad in America. You can tell how much he missed them, how he knew he’d never see them again before he passed to the grave—or they, too. It turned out his daughter Mary would die of cancer in Garden City, NY, before he would die. He wrote to her husband of his great sorrow in her death. Each letter has the heading of “Diamond Hill,” as was common for those living in town, for he lived on Diamond Hill, or Bengooria, Binn Ghuaire, “Ghuaire’s Peak,” one of the Twelve Bens mountain range in Ballinakill. In the Geographical History of Ireland by — published in 18–, —, the author, on his journeys surveying the far West of Ireland, County Galway near the Wild Atlantic Way, notes the residence of one M – Connelly, in residence on Diamond Hill, 18–, father of my great great great grandfather, Michael, husband of first Celia, then Margaret and father of twenty one living children. How strange to see their names in the document, noted by its painstaking author as he traveled on foot from cottage to cottage. I had been searching for some great time, and a map of the land collected like a census for humans and ice ages revealed this most familiar ancestral place.


      In the 12th and 13th century, just as who we might call “the English” decided to begin colonizing Ireland, routing out the language from her people, we find the name of Connelly listed as part of the Mac Connemara—the descendants of Con Mhac, the (mythical) ancestor or “hound son”—the governing clans of the Western Kingdoms of Ireland. These were known as the Connemary, the parishes of Baile na Cille, Ballindoon, Maigh Iorras, Omey and Inisbofin. The MacConneelys were the eldest cadets to the O’Kealys, one of the main ruling families or tuatha of Ireland. They’d lived in this land, since before Medieval Times, until in 13–, when the land held by the Conmhaicne Mara was forcibly given to an English ruling lord who took it over, scattering the tuatha west and south, even nearer to the Atlantic. The people in the West of Ireland, more than any other region on the island, retained their language through seven centuries of British occupation and rule, despite the colonizer’s best intention at cultural genocide. Did they retain it? Historian Declan Kiberd says, “If every word was once a poem before being denatured by common use, then each sentence may also be a kind of epitaph on an emotion. In an analogous way, a nation state may be an elegy for a language, a secondary institutional formation designed to fill the void left by a lost language and by the structures of feeling which disappeared along with it.” They did not fully disappear.

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      That first time, I said, “I’m going,” aloud, as if to mark some boundary of movement back, nearly the first such movement since my great-grandmother had come on the Carminia in 1920. That was six years ago, and I stayed for a long, full day and a night, and then returned to England. The second time, with you, marks less than a week before we land in Cork, then drive up through Kerry the next day and overnight in Sneem, through Cahersiveen, then on, straight up the coast and Wild Atlantic Way to Galway, to sleep in a ring of places where my blood once rested: Clifden, Dawros More, Renvyle, Letterfrack. There are mountains and hills, inlets and rivulets, the Atlantic and shallow, studded small islands off the coast, National Park and high mountain flower, dropped lakes from the Ice Age and the white marble-dropped country of liminal land and hardy, challenging soil which my third great grandfather worked so hard for all of his life: rocks, rocks, rocks everywhere made into things of use for living, praying, being, sitting, and keeping ancestors, both held and in disarray. This disarray isn’t different from their original organization. In such a language we speak of stone and water and roads as endless ways for expressing human ties. Stones are dropped and found everywhere on earth, made into fences and walls, carved and held in places to consecrate with nature. As a place, a stone may hold the sound of what came before. I’ll tell you how it speaks.

Buckheit stone

      When I arrived, it was as if the place was empty. Empty of all of the traces left by people, the small dashed pathways on land and spirals through air where we’ve moved again and again, consuming the spaces in a place until such pathways make a hectic map blocking out all of the trees. There isn’t even a tree left. The map is all we see. Is it normal? We don’t see the trees as they have become background filler, and the dirt too, the water and rocks, the prism of sky in its depth, the land that rolls and continues in every which way, populated with the speech of stones, until one hits ocean. We see ourselves, but maybe we don’t either. I don’t see you and I don’t see the tree. The stones are dead to me and that is the worst. I think I am so different from the stone, born for great things and money and a name, that I can’t even see myself in the midst of the nature. It is my bone, my dust heated and transmuted through the pull of the universe into the stone. When I say I, I mean we. These are the stories we tell ourselves, where we don’t walk with our own feet and we can’t see out with our eyes. We go in. What if we walked out, we explored without anything? The internet was a terrible invention. It will save us, perhaps, but still—it is a terrible invention for the brain. What is it like to be free? Can you remember, now, what that felt as in your nervous system? To not think of yourself as yourself within the view of thousands, your story, your face, you, you. To simply be, like a leaf in the lip of the water current, one heart alone but in unity. What is natural? Can you remember? What if our pathway was quiet, a small dashed line like a choreography between trees and parallel the river, still in the music and vibrating in the places that are known to be of our Qi. Or soared in a car and then doubled back, offending no one. What if we went on foot, with the whole sky always above us, a dome of gloaming, radiant ions—  


      This is what it was to go back. The sky was more alive than most places, as if the place still remembered its name, as if the trees and grass-ridden valleys easing up into hills and pockets holding more stones were the place, rather than our arriving making it so by evidence—as they are and always have been. The sound of land and geo, earth, was stronger than anything else. What is it like to arrive in such a place, when the places with which we have union have been obliterated and so have we? We can’t feel them anymore. We don’t know how, most of us. They can’t speak as they once did. What is it like to arrive in such a place? It is like dying—the death of all that we have made—and then we are born again. 

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Melissa Buckheit is a queer poet, translator, activist, dancer and choreographer, photographer, English Lecturer and Orthopedic Massage Therapist. She is the author of Noctilucent (Shearsman Books, 2012), and two chapbooks: Dulcet You (dancing girl press, 2016) and Arc (The Drunken Boat, 2007).

Chloe Tsolakoglou





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Chloe Tsolakoglou is a Greek writer who grew up in Athens, Greece. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree in Creative Writing. Currently, Chloe serves as the Anselm Hollo Fellow at Naropa University’s MFA Program. She has worked for a variety of publications, such as Catamaran Literary Magazine, and is presently an editor for Bombay Gin. Her writing explores the transactional natures of love and violence under late capitalism.