All posts by Heather Martel

Virago Beauty

Says Atalanta–this is about me not you.

It has been a revelation to identify with my butchness after years of low-grade shame, of feeling endangered by trans or ugly to “lipstick” and rock-climbing, mountain-biking, millennial lesbians or too womanly to women who go for trans-men. As if all of us cannot co-exist…

But mostly shame.

To claim butchness.

Campy, feminist, intellectual, fashionable, desiring, desirable, visible, tender, brave, kind, empathic, spiritual, quiet, steady, still, true-blue, audacious, uppity, 50, athletic, gentle, tough, grizzled, scarred, soft-skinned, sometimes screaming like a girl, a catch, assertive, ally to social justice movements that need never center us.

Amazons. Tribades. Shameless double-sexed hermaphrodites. Viragos. Gorgeous, lithe and thunder-thighed, the whole spectrum of us.

And I heart femmes, who have their own struggles with misrecognition–as straight, as bisexuals, as objects, as fantasies.

But butch to femme is not a binary. She is too strong, too independent, too powerful—and, also, just as sweet, kind, loving, and visibly, gorgeously, defiantly off-limits. Femmes are sexy to me, not my mirrors or my others: neither weak to my strong nor nurturing to my…stone.

Stone is not me. It has been a method of surviving, a defendedness I now trade in: armor exchanged for this, my golden, downy, soft skin–lit at finger brushes nearness searing looks along my entire nervous system. Vagus nerve blooms as a great pink rose. So in love my ribs expand and pull apart. And knifed, sensitive, wounded, healing.

Now, I avow myself butch, vulnerable, comfortable in my skin—not blurred by fitting in, but recognizable, first to myself, then to my beloved communities.

Studying masculinity this semester means I must quit identifying with masculinity as my performance. (This is about me, not you.)

Masculinity, however we sliced it, was too relational, too precarious, too dependent. Like whiteness it needs subordinates, submissives, dependents.

Meanwhile, all masculinity’s others easily stand alone, not needing the masculine to know themselves. In fact, we have been unable to know ourselves in relation to the masculine: because the masculine has constructed phantoms of us to know itself. Mirrors? Others. Weak ones, childish ones, dumb ones, silent ones, less human ones, bad ones, dangerous ones, perverts.

We perverts and queers slip away from behind the glass, from behind the silver of masculine reflections.

Leave the mirror, I take myself.

I perform butchness.

Butchness, not to be confused with dominance, violence, conquest, hierarchy, and dissociation, i.e., hegemonic masculinity. The performative aspects (the unconscious, repetitive) build from iconized performances of manly embodiment, historical butchness, Amazons’, young dad’s, camp counselor’s, coach’s virago beauty. Handsome. A fashion. Gestures, sensibilities, woody smelling, signals from me to you who would stand with me. To you who would lay with me.

And YES-male bodies can perform butchness. But let us not confuse it with masculinity.

Butchness: supportive, vulnerable, tender, empathetic, brave, womanly, Amazonian, queer, campy, silly, serious (so, so serious!), intense, sensitive, deep, compassionate, moved, human, humane.

All butch.

Toxic Masculinity

My name is Brit and I am a Survivor.

I am a sex and love addict too. I came into SIA through SLAA, when my inventories were neither freeing me from survivalism, nor addressing my core shame: that I am the product of rape.

My mother died in childbirth. The nurses she told her story to gave me her name: Britomartis, also the name of Crete’s goddess of the mountains, of fishing, and of the hunt.[1]

I was raised in the foster system. I learned to charm and hustle and shift, to become the child each parent wanted in house after house after house. And I am as queer as a three-dollar bill. A gold star lesbian. Though not without some sexual trauma of my own.

I started saving money and getting tattoos when I was fifteen. I got this minotaur tattoo on the inside of my right forearm, for the fantasy of murdering my mother’s trafficker. And, as you can see, the iconography of feminine power and of revenge have been inked into my skin, the labrys and the butterfly too, connecting all the freckles that came into my DNA that terrible night in my mother’s short life.

Women really thought these tattoos were hot back in the 80s and 90s when I was running and gunning and hustling. Yeah, it was a lot of fun for a while. It felt good to be wanted, to watch a woman risk everything to have me? I remember one time this gorgeous woman–I pushed her up against her car and kissed her and she gasped with lust.

I was a drug for them. And I chased that high for years.

But I never gave myself a chance to be loved. I objectified myself. And I hid.

I was never really there, never for long enough to be seen through the blue on my skin.

I got to SLAA in the late 90s. (I don’t know how I would have survived this age of swipe-sex.) I had to confront the fantasy that drove me from one relationship to the next.

And then, I had to face my sweetest fantasy. The fantasy of revenge in all its gory details. This had grown so big, it encompassed most men, who I saw as predators and as rabid beasts that needed to be put down.

At the same time, I had to confront my own masculinity.

I too was taught to see women as objects and as conquests. This was hard to admit. Had I always waited for consent? Did I honor the women I dated and pursued and even spent years with? Did I truly consider their hearts, their boundaries, their bodies, their visions for us?

I had to inventory my participation in this and in all the intersecting isms that I had internalized.

I could drive down a beautiful road and get turned on at my power to see, to speed along its curves, to make it part of my story, and to recognize it as a place where I could project my identity.

Even the land was my other.

In my survivalism, I justified harm. I was unconscious of my affect on people, on my planet. Fucking A, this was survival! This was a homophobic, misogynistic society and I was a big proud queer. A vampire. Above the rest of you.

I couldn’t feel Earth or what we were doing to it. I couldn’t feel anything.

And that was the point.

It took a while to see how I had harmed myself. For example, I had certain ideas about how performing masculinity was about making women feel desired–by abandoning my own limits and boundaries too.

I had no integrity.

I lost myself shifting to fit what I imagined were their fantasies.

I remember this time, I had taken this beautiful, brilliant, imaginative woman to dinner. We were standing on a corner at a red light. I was waiting for her to succumb to my charms, not looking at her, not touching her. She put her hand on my shoulder. She slid her hand down my arm and took my hand.

I froze.

I didn’t take her up on it. I didn’t squeeze back. I had no game.

And she dropped my hand.

Then she broke up with me.

It was like she had sensed my emptiness.

So, of course I put years into trying to make her love me. I ran all over her boundaries. Of course she lashed out at me—that’s what I thought I deserved. I lost myself doing it.

I shrank.

That’s what finally got me in the rooms.

I am the product of the multiple rapes of my fifteen-year-old mother by a group of American tourists to Crete who bought her virginity from a sex trafficker there who called himself King Minos. One of these men took pity on her and helped her to escape, to stow away on a ship that took her around Africa, across the Pacific, and then to the Port of Los Angeles.

I like to think that I get my freckles and my green eyes and my curly hair from that one among my mother’s rapists: the one who also helped her to get free.

Now, I understand that my purpose is to help other people suffering the pains of growing up. I get to help other people who come from generational trauma, collective and historical trauma. I get to be present with you and your stories. I get to feel my heart reach out to you. I get to feel my body, my pain, my rage, my grief, my loneliness.

I know that shame is a lie. When I stand with you, I learn to stand with myself.

I find compassion for myself too.

Gradually, I learned to give myself the love I used to hustle for–and never receive. I look at my own shit and I ask for help to change.

It’s a simple, good life. I get to be a part of this community. I get to help re-envision the world.

I begin by changing myself.


This story came from a tarot reading–I am developing each character in 2020 through such readings on my channel, Metal Dog Tarot. Here is the link to Brit’s reading.


Daddy Issues

The tarot reader had it right on the first guess.

I can’t help but see that the missing cup in this 8 of cups is offered here, by the Knight. And yet someone walked away from that love offer. There was self-harm too or winning, but at what price? The 5 of swords.

The readers words grated on Camilla.

But the reader had been confused too. Because she saw Camilla refusing the advice of the reading.

You’ll end up all alone, cutting everyone away, telling yourself you are complete. But this old resentment, this clinging to this 3 of swords. A heart is stabbed 3 times: betrayal, abandonment, neglect. This feeling you have been wronged. 7 of Swords.

Jesus, Camilla had tried to let it go. There had been therapists, anger management trainings, martial arts, now a tarot reader for fuck’s sake.

Camilla took a hot, shuddering breath before the cupboard of ointments and thread and gauze and tools.

Then, placing the needle loaded with local anesthesia on the tray, she turned to her patient, a girlish woman, platinum haired, lithe. Miserable. The woman needed stitches from a self inflicted cut to her thigh.

“Now Gallia,” said Camilla. “What do we have here?”

Gallia said nothing. Camilla could see the fine scars up and down Gallia’s thigh. The new angry ones, the black healing ones, the fine white web of a history of self-harm.

No, self punishment was not Camilla’s story. Hers was winning horribly. Hers was cutting people out. Hers was carrying the truth with ferocity.

The fucking reader had been right.

“No shame.” Camilla was matter of fact. “I have seen worse. What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a vet. Veterinarian.”

Camilla knew the kind of sensitive animal lovers who had the intelligence and grit to become vets had not planned on the level of isolation, loss, and pain in that profession. Veterinarians had a surprisingly high suicide rate.

She met Gallia’s icicle eyes and felt a strange drop inside. Then looked quickly down to the knotting of the stitch.

“You are lucky to have such beautiful hair,” Camilla was good at small talk. “Is that your natural color?

Gallia put her hands to her pale cropped hair. “I love your color.”

“Bottled gold. It’s dark underneath.” In fact, she guessed, Gallia could certainly see the roots, the new grey coming in in streaks. For now, it was tied up into a rushed knot, off kilter from her helmet, and then wind blown from the parking lot.

“It’s not that I had to put a cat to sleep.” Gallia volunteered.

“Oh,” Camilla said openly.

“It’s. I don’t know exactly. But some days. I cannot see the point. I can’t feel. There’s no color.”

“Hmmm.” Camilla deftly bandaged the stitched wound, the tape holding Gallia there, holding her firmly together. Or Camilla hoped as much.

“I am so alone,” Gallia said.

Camilla patted her on the knee.

“I know that feeling,” Camilla said. “I am glad you told me. You know, you don’t have to do it alone.”

Camilla stopped, questioned herself. She meant it.

Gallia put her hand on Camilla’s forearm. “I feel like I know you already. You know? From before–”

Camilla had had the same thought when she had met Gallia’s icicle eyes.

She had thought of stars.

“I do this thing. SIA. I am sure you would be welcome.”

Gallia, airy and steady and intense, said, “Okay.”


This story came from a tarot reading–I am developing each character in 2020 through such readings on my channel, Metal Dog Tarot. Here are the links to Camilla’s reading and the extended.

Manel – Astronomer, Leo

Manny walked into Lyudmila’s office the day she learned that Tamara had died.

It was 2001.

“Manny Zaki.”

Lyudmila looked up at the tall, lithe person offering their hand across the desk. She had just placed the receiver into the cradle and in a practiced motion, reached down, opened her bottom drawer, and pulled one of the cheap highball glasses she kept there. She put the glass on the desk and half stood to shake Manny’s hand. It was warm, smooth, golden.

“Hello Manny,” she said. “Will you have a drink with me? I have just had some sad news.”

Many,” the name came out, translation across two accents.

“Egypt,” Manny said, anticipating the usual question.

“Pardon me?” Lyudmila had again bent to her bottom right drawer, for the second glass and then the fifth of vodka. She looked over her shoulder at Manny with her dark blue eyes and smiled her half smile.

This half smile, the attempt at humor in the deep, cool, eyes, all struck Manny with sorrow.

Manny sat down. Lyudmila poured.

“No thank you, but please, go ahead,” said Manny.

Many Zaki,” Lyudmila repeated, pushing two fingers in the glass across the desk. “You are one of my new grads. I remember. Your name, Zaki. It means “pious.” Odd name for a scientist.”

“No better way to know god than in looking at the stars.”

“You know Many? You are so right.” Lyudmila huffed out her nose, amused. “Tell me about yourself.”

Manny leaned back in their chair and began to tell Lyudmila about their dreams for their graduate study in astronomy. They reached up to their hair in a practiced fidget and let the knot loose, then smoothed and twisted and knotted as they talked. Lyudmila was supremely easy to talk to.

Then Manny stopped talking. They looked into Lyudmila’s dark stare. That half smile again. Damn.

“You have amazing hair,” said Lyudmila. She had sat in her heartache as Manny talked, having swallowed her drink quickly. Her vagus nerve she knew was responding to the organs of her body, to the sounds to her ears, the sad news that had come over the line, the low, clear sound of Manny’s voice, to the sight before her, the clear liquid, the person at her desk. Her eyes burned. Her vagus nerve did something to her throat. A lump. To her heart. It made her feel knifed.

The vodka burned down her. She poured another to sip. Though she wanted oblivion. She waited. Made herself suffer. She was good at that.

Her vagus nerve put butterflies in her stomach too. This gorgeous young person reminded her of youth, of her own earliest visions. And of something ancient too, something that went across the unknown, that zapped and lit up the electric connections.

When Manny again shook her hand and said goodbye. Lyudmila took that long, fast drink she had wanted. She also emptied the glass Manny had left untouched.

Oblivion did not come. It had not come for many years.

That was the beginning.

Lyudmila had defected in 1979. She and Niki were invited to Hawaii for a meeting of astronomers engaged with sending probes and flybys towards Venus. The Americans’ 1978 Pioneer Venus had collected data the Soviets wanted. She was to use her considerable charms to win access to it from one of the American scientists there.

She got the information. She and Niki conferred beneath the starry sky as they swam in the warm ocean.

“I don’t think they saw it,” she said. “I don’t believe they know what they have Niki. But it is a sign of life.”

Nikolai had returned home to their children. Lyudmila would not see them again for more than two decades, after the eastern block finally opened.

But there had always been in her that need to suffer. The world as it was designed caused this.

She stowed away on a ship. Her American scientist had arranged everything with his connections. And now, here she was, ultimately, a disappointment to the Americans, at a small public university in Northern Arizona. But free. Free to suffer. Free to look at the heavens. Free to feel Tamara there. Niki. The children. All out of reach. All tied securely by silk to the network, her nervous system.

In the morning she woke shocked at her heartcrimes. It felt like the fist of muscle in her chest was tied up. Several times a day, a silk cord yanked by some object, a perfume, a thought, a doubt.

Isolated in her convictions, she suffered.

And yet, she was not one to wear armor. Or to dread pain. Now Manny, dipping in her door. Lyudmila’s stomach lifting suddenly at the sight of a figure in the beige halls, far ahead, turning a corner. A familiar gait.

Ridiculous, Lyudmila chided herself. But it made her smile too.

They worked well together. Manny was quick and quietly brilliant, making leaps and connections across gaps Lyudmila had become resigned to never bridging, had not known she needed to.

For Lyudmila, these were years full of joy. Tortured by desire, but happy. Sometimes she felt the red bird blooming in her chest, a whole new world to greet each dawn for. She was too old now for acting on such thoughts she told herself.

She rushed to work, balancing her creamy, spiked coffee on the dashboard of her Subi, taking sips between lights in the navy pre-pink morning, eager for her calculations, after hours the night before behind the telescopes.

Everyday she knew that soon she would look up from her desk and see Manny leaning against her door jamb, a sheaf of papers, a pencil in their knotted hair to pull out and jot notes. The clean smell of the tumble of that dark, straight, shining hair. Manny’s gesture to push it back behind their ear. How it would fall again, lit with auburn from Lyudmila’s desk lamp.

One night at the observatory, Lyudmila told Manny about Venus. All of it. Tamara and Bernice and the red bird. And the phosphine gas from the 1978 Pioneer Venus probe, the alien life it suggested.

“I want to show you something,” she said. She entered some coordinates into the telescope consol and, as they waited for it to move there, she told Manny the whole story.

It was 2008.

Listening, laying in the chair beneath the lens, Manny realized they were holding their breath as Lyudmila talked. Lyudmila was not looking at Manny, just watching the roof as the great scope whined and whirred its slow way towards a spot just beyond Venus, to the gate Lyudmila’s calculations said would open there.

Manny was looking at Lyudmila out of the corner of their eye, indulging longer and longer moments to rest their cheekbone to the chairback in order to stare directly at their teacher as she spoke. This was the side of Lyudmila that smiled, the half-smile that began gloriously at the eyes, deep laugh lines that were so beautiful—

Lyudmila was talking and shaking her head side to side over her feeling for Tamara and at how brazen they had all been 38 years ago…38 years ago, the year Manny was born. As she shook her head, Lyudmila caught a glimpse of Manny from the corner of her eye. Manny was staring at her, brazenly now.

Lyudmila stopped talking.

With a small laugh of recognition and happiness, Lyudmila stared back. It was quiet for a long time.

“I have been meaning to ask you,” Lyudmila said. “How is it that you don’t drink?”


This story came from a tarot reading–I am developing each character in 2020 through such readings on my channel, Metal Dog Tarot. Here is Manel’s reading:

The Venus Problem

How was it possible for us to process the raw materials for our multiversity on Venus of all places?! Acid rain. Temperatures as hot as an oven cleaning cycle after a series of volcanic eruptions had caused a runaway greenhouse effect. The resulting density of the atmosphere as great as that of 3000 feet under sea level. A slow rotation.[1]

This environment had crushed the Russian probe, Venera 7, when it made the first Venusian soft landing on December 15, 1970.

Venus, it has been theorized, lacks water on the surface, plate tectonics, and abundant life enough to correct the extremities of that environment and make it habitable. But in 2020, observers of Venus captured evidence of a gas in the planet’s atmosphere that suggested the presence of life.

A race to Venus began. We hoped we would be gone by the time this race was won—if Earthling societies were able to sustain such ambition for so long.

How did we solve the Venus problem?

The Venus solution lays in that first probe in 1970, the lucky Venera, Russian for Venus, morning star, Lucifer. The fallen angel. The intersections here of the goddess of love and the angel who refused to worship man are perfectly suited to the explanation we must offer.

On one side of the story, three astronomers in the Soviet Union met in graduate school and began to scan the skies and to document the existence of astral bodies, lesser planets or asteroids caught in the gravity of the solar system. Lyudmila Chernykh, born 1935 – died 2017. Nikolai Chernykh 1931 – 2004. And Tamara Smirnova 1935 – 2001.

In tarot, threes present us with collaboration, with betrayal, with reconciliation, with expectation. And in these passionate connections, the problem of torn loyalties presents itself, the challenge of third parties that take from two: lovers, work, children. Here is the place where two produce a third and the world is never the same. Defection, hybridity, all are in play as a third comes in.

Lyudmila was the kind of woman you did not expect to find behind a telescope. Tall, femme, brash and brilliant, she possessed the hearts and bodies of both Nikolai and Tamara. But 1958 was a dangerous time for the thing she had with Tamara and she married Nikolai.

It was understood by Niki that Lyudmila’s love for Tamara did not leave when he placed the ring on her hand. Tamara, calm, deep, with her dark humor and her charisma, her sleek, auburn head bent over her calculations, her steady shocking eyes when she looked up to meet Lyudmila’s. A gaze that still tumbled Lyudmila into the void where fire, water, and the very matter between the stars ruled her.

When Lyudmila chose Niki, Tamara went silent, cut through with her loss. But all three were assigned to the same project for the next 7 years and she found a way to work companionably with her married friends. They mapped the stars. Then Nikolai was drafted into the Venera project. Lyudmila left with him and Tamara went onward alone.

Across the Pacific, a daughter was born to Gloria Bitterwater, a west-Canadian Indigenous medicine woman of the Eagle-Wolf moiety. When she turned 18, Bernice asked her mother again who her father was and her mother told her this time of a geologist, John Ralph, who had come to study volcanoes in the region. She had gone with him as guide and to protect the sacred places he wanted to look into. Gloria did not tell Bernice what happened. She said, and then, you came along.

It was John Ralph, still studying volcanoes who took Bernice to Siberia. This was where she, 19, met Tamara, then 33, high on an icy mountain where the telescope pointed to the stars, below which rested an ancient, sleeping volcano, which her birth father wanted to study.

Before Bernice Bitterwater left for the airport, Gloria took up her hand, which was brown and small and sure, just like her mother’s. The medicine woman put a pouch into Bernice’s palm and said, when you go there, look for the red bird, it is what is missing. And she called the pouch a word in Athabascan, one that Bernice, who spoke her native tongue (as well as English, Russian, French, and Greek), understood well.

Long ago, people had come across the ocean and they had brought this red bird, a kind of mushroom. The ancient people who became Tlingit had made it a part of their medicine. It had flourished deep in their mountains. But then, inexplicably, it had left. The ancient people tried but could not cross over to the land where it came from.

Bernice was to bring the red bird home with her from Siberia. She was to leave the pouch in Siberia in return.

But something else happened.

Bernice met Tamara. And like Lyudmila before her, the sight of Tamara’s dark head bent over her calculations, the raising of her gaze. From the very first moment Bernice met her, it was as though she was shot through with stars and joy.

Bernice found the red bird deep in that Siberian volcano. It was unmistakable. And she brought it home to Gloria Bitterwater and her people. But when she left Siberia and Tamara, she left the pouch with Tamara, including the small start of the red bird she had added. She said simply, here. She trusted her heart to show her that this was the part of Siberia she was meant to give the medicine to. She could always feel Tamara’s wound. She felt it against her own heart, where she too had been struck with love. She intuitively understood how she reminded Tamara of Lyudmila—for Bernice was also brash and brilliant and femme, in her own way. But in a way that shocked Tamara with memory and sent her spiraling into ancestral losses as well.

What is this? said Tamara. And Bernice answered the Athabascan word.

When Tamara looked into her eyes with a question, Bernice with her command of many languages struggled, wanting to meet that sweetness, that mutualness, that fire. It is not easy to translate she said. It means world. It means home. It means light.

Bernice went home.

Tamara put the pouch under her pillow, missing her lover’s body. And she began to dream.

Now Tamara was a scientist. But love makes even a scientist open in ways that bear no explanation. She had been touched and changed by love twice in her life, already, by the young age of 33

Let’s say, it took time. Let’s imagine the persistence of the dream, how repetitive, how she woke grasping for what she had learned she must do. Grabbing at pen and paper to jot the dream down before it slipped away, unaided as dreams are by the remembering parts of her brain, which had been resting while she slept, instead of grooving.

But one day, before it was too late. She took the pouch to her old friend Lyudmila and she said, this must go to the Morning Star on the Lucifer 7. Does that make sense?

And it did make a little bit of sense to Lyudmila, who had become a mother in the last few years. She looked into Tamara’s eyes and she felt the same old falling feeling. Lyudmila was never the kind to get hard or to put on armor. She was not one to remember or dread pain. She knew it had taken Tamara courage to come back. And she accepted without questioning the love gift of the pouch.

Nikolai was like Lyudmila in this way—he could never say no to the one he loved. And in 1970, as he prepared the probe for the journey to Venus, he slipped the little pouch into a nook. He knew how fine the calculations for a soft landing could be. He always wondered whether that pouch had made the Venera 7 the lucky one to land.

Lucky before it caved under the pressure of the atmosphere, that is. He smiled and he stroked his beard when he thought of this.

In the darkness of the Venera 7, the red bird birthed a small colony, integrating with the other medicine in the pouch, lighting the probe as it coursed through the void, feeling the dark matter, the map of the stars.

Little world, home, light. The mycelium burst forth onto Venus from the probe as it landed.

She flipped the antennae helplessly into the hot mud and it sent out a message back to Nikolai and the Russian astronomers:

Hot, hot, dry, no water here, said the mycelium, giving herself some forty years to prepare the way for us.

[1] [Accessed: 12/16/2020].

Space Opera

When all of this started, there was a genre of science fiction concerned with the practicalities of space travel: a man stranded on Mars grew potatoes; when the water filtration on the ship broke down, the travelers captured crystallized water released from the ship’s membrane; CO2 levels made astronauts mad and projects ended in tragedy.

The first SIA mission to space began at this level, in a recycled clunker of a ship bound for Venus. They were brave in their suits with their oxygen tanks and their detailed plans for how to recreate the very basic mechanism of photosynthesis that far from the sun.

But they also had an ally with a capacity for great leaps of intelligence. Part of their experiment was that symbiotic relationship. Even as they orbited around Venus, the mycelium and the human workers processing the waste collected by the golden women, they grew their technology in leaps and bounds, so that they soon had a vast empire of waste management and recycling, then building and growing, and came to a way of surviving and concealing the magnitude of their project beneath the foggy atmosphere of that golden planet, named ironically, after the goddess of love—for she rained down acid.

Mycelium that had developed a tolerance to sulpheric acid in the fermentation industry’s waste management processes in China expanded its ability to resist, but also transform the fatal rains that fell constantly from the Venusian skies. The cleansed rains, the clouds of carbon dioxide, breathed and filtered and transformed into bright pools of sulfur, fed the gardens that soon grew into alien rainforests.

They could have remained there. But the mechanisms they built to capture and magnify the radiation of the sun for their gardens did not meet their need for blue skies and the light on their skins and lashes, warming their clothes.

There was a Ray Bradbury story about this longing: the sun breaking the clouds for one hour every seven years.

Besides, they would need to stay away from Earth for over a millennium. Were they so close to the blue swirls of their home planet, close enough to view the land of their ancestors, they might not be able to resist that call.

They knew Earth needed time to purge and then to heal. They were determined to give it to her.

The astronomers of SIA had identified a pattern in the great randomness of the Milky Way in maps modeled after histories marked in ancient sites, at Stonehenge, at Machu Pichu, at the Great Pyramids under the gaze of the Sphynx, according to the Mayan calendar, and in alignment with those other mysterious tools for marking time and mapping space that were monuments to the old ones.

In 2050, the pattern would align again.

The people of SIA and their Multiversity of Arks would be waiting there.

At the mirror, ready for the opening of the gate.

The Wiki

Juno lay in her beloved body, naked on the subtle rise and fall of the Aegean. Her hair spread out over the surface, pulling gently at her scalp. She could hear the sands and stones moving on the sea floor. Her slim feet dangled from her knees in the dark water. That liquid resistance stroked her arches.

She wiggled her toes and felt the new presence there. The Wiki. Between her big toe and her first toe on her right foot.

Juno had returned to Crete in the early morning hours, stepped off the slow ferry into Iraklion and driven her rented Fiat down to Kommos under the starry moonless sky. She thought of something she now knew about the space between the stars: “evidence for dark matter comes from calculations showing that many galaxies would fly apart, or that they would not have formed or would not move as they do, if they did not contain a large amount of unseen matter.”[1]

She felt how she did not fly apart. She felt the network now interlacing itself into her vagus nerve, mirroring and tying into her body. Already the bottoms of her feet and the palms of her hands were tattooed with delicate patterns, like maps of neurons or of the web she had seen, could call up quickly now. Into her mind’s eye.

Driving here, she had felt the road and her car handling tightly, hugging curves and opening wide on the empty highway. She felt all of the other cars that had turned away into the city for the night as she drove up into the mountains. The last ones splitting off, like hairs standing up on the back of her neck, bound for country lanes amidst orchards she sensed growing in the darkness, their roots fit deep into Earth letting the eucalyptus at Kommos know she was coming.

The intelligence amazed her and flooded her. And she laughed. The Wiki did that. It was a side effect encouraged to counteract the negative effects of the fungi her body was integrating.

It would take time to process the massive download of information, or so they imagined. She was an experiment.

Just another transition in a long history of them, Juno thought.

The ferry had been a trip, all of the people shining out around her, their stunted and numbed and amputated ganglia, their reaching and flinching light. She had let herself weave amongst them, hot gold amidst their reds and greens and blues. Soothing, feeding their unmet desires to connect. Until all slept, cocktails and bags of crisps forgotten. Through the captain’s brown eyes and steady hands, behind her knowledgeable squint, Juno steered the great ship from island to island, waking the passengers in time to depart through the belly of the ferry, rolling their bags on their sleepy way.

She had taken her keys from the efficient rental car dealer, assuring him that yes, yes, she could drive stick. Why the United States had gone automatic, they agreed to wonder, shaking their heads. She felt his laugh push his sternum out into the space between them. Then storing her bag, started the little car up and tuned into the map of her mind.

Once a decision, now became a perfectly timed physical impulse. Her body drove the car and looked out to the night, sensing without needing to know that a car was approaching, then peeling off. To pause, for a wildcat would be walking across the road here. The kri kri, wild goat, would swerve at the sound of her engine and wind her way back up amongst the shrubs to seek her pre-dawn snack.

Juno’s foot pressed pedal to the floor and the wind whirled into her skin.

She was part satellite, part plant intelligence, retracing the routes of roads like filaments unto the sea, as the early morning darkness swelled with promise. A bumpy dirt road roared up at her with anticipation, until she parked. Barefoot, she walked the short distance over the coarse, cool sand, stripped off her travel heavy clothes, and slipped into summer warm waves.

Water worked as a buffer, not silencing but muting the noise of knowledge. That is why she had come here to Kommos to rest, just a few feet out from the easy surf.

That was why she was surprised when she heard her name called out over the water.

“Juno!” It was Xan.

“Juno!” It was Attie. Juno found her feet in the waves, felt the planet speak to her again, gently, just hushing her startled heart.

For the first time she could see these two women: the amber of Alexandra reading the mind of the galaxy, her faint and holographic memory of what was, of what would be, the licking of a snake’s tongue, our vague, terrifying future.

Atalanta’s indigo aura went deep down into the roots and out into nerves and hearts – of birds just waking into the new day. A cat laying casually at the edge of shrubs above the beach, lifted her eyes with Attie and looked at me too.

I saw how Juno for the first time knew. [Atalanta]

“Priestess, welcome home,” they said.

And we did not need to, but we reached out for one another’s hands, the cooled and solemn palms and fingers, the warmth of our blood, the meeting of green and brown and blue eyes. [Alexandra]

There is still nothing like hugging a dear friend, Juno thought, feeling more. She was now woven into the muscle and bone and minds of these women…with whom she was ready to travel to the stars.

Funny, she thought, how the teacher can feel like the student.

And in this moment, we all remembered, how arbitrary the structures on which we can arrange our relations.

[1] “Dark Matter” on Wikipedia. [ Accessed: 10.04.2020.]


Crete, at our little school. 2035.

The arks now above us, planted with the “seeds” of everything on Earth. Some cultivated, much stored for when we returned in a millennium. Somehow our SIA scientists and the mycelium had found a way to freeze the genetic material of an entire planet in tiny packets that could bloom again.

I thought of sea monkeys I saw advertised in comic books as a kid.

(I am a historian, not a biologist! I don’t know. I know so little about what I am a part of.)

Each ark was five miles across, made of repurposed garbage, of space junk too, and of broken stars captured in asteroid fields, of the endings of earlier worlds.

“Sculptors of ruins,” Dido calls us.

She writes me from New York, saying “Today we live in the shadow world of what will soon be. Can we make it of ash? What other sources and seeds are there, in the place of no future? Love, amor, expansion, togetherness. It is what we have.”[1]

I say, Yes. We have made it of ash.

5 miles across: massive scale for a ship, but such small containers for a desperate world.

When the fires of 2020 blazed through the Pacific Northwest, I thought of Australia the winter before. The Amazon the summer before. We collectors grieved wilderness that raised us, places we had touched, creatures we had heard rustling there. Birds.

Or a place where bright flowers had yearly bloomed–shock of orange paintbrush. Now quiet. Burned out beneath the blackness left behind a brighter orange. Under the green heart of flames. Already choked in dust of drought before the blaze was even set.

But by 2019, Juno and the scientists of SIA were already ready. They had been combing those woods for years, carrying it all gently, lovingly, down into labs underground. Discrete, disinterested in attention, humble about their ingenuity. Codes for intellectual property long held in traditions, locked in stories and old ways of being with the land that the Western world could never have access to.

I joined the collectors on Crete soon after, shipping down from Athens on a slow ferry that dropped me off in the middle of the night. All day upon the dark blue seas, as my polarized glasses made purple glitter of it turning aside, made brilliant white the foam. Wind whipped and wild as I liked to be.

Crete felt like an ancient homecoming.

And the more I studied, the more I understood why. Our purpose, the great cycles of history and consciousness, also opened like the sea there will: suddenly to aquamarine shallows like sea beasts that heaved gently on rocks burned gold in Aegean sunlight.

I would lay naked on my back in the surf at Kommos Beach and remember Theseus arriving and leaving. And before him, Phoenicians, the clever sailors who fished the Mediterranean for arts and good trade.

They carried the tiny turtle islands, earth seeds, up into the heavens on ships that all believed transported garbage. They secreted them away on those temporary satellites, our arks, until we were ready to join them.

Meanwhile, I was part of a team of knowledge collectors, archivists, historians, and educators for schools of the refugees of capitalism, of climate change, of authoritarianism, of militarism, of colonialism, of toxic masculinity and white supremacy. Children who had come across the dark seas, in the night, at great cost and their mothers, their queer uncles, their trans-aunts.

We are all orphans of these forces we called the isms, all survivors. From our suffering and our healing we developed curriculum for the newcomers to our shores—in hopes of healing trauma, lest we build from it and build new monsters.

How to transform survivalism into utopias? This would be our project.

We would try and try many ways, fail, and try again. But the children remembered and they taught us much of the time before birth. We began to piece the great hologram together, the faint complete picture on each of the elements that made us, becoming clearer.

In a practical sense, we were creating a massive database. We were learning and saving all the tongues of our planet to keep them safe and return them one day, to let them loose on Earth’s winds long after we died and went into the soil to feed the Great Mycelium of our arks.

Our priestesses would carry the knowledge we gathered and the visions we dreamed on tiny implants that woke their minds, wove them back into the collective consciousness.

We would be remembered forever there.

As would Earth.

[1] Lines from a friend’s note. Macarena Gómez-Barris, September 11, 2020.

The Multiversity

Have you ever made a hair pin turn, but sensed others of you peeling off and missing the corner, in screech of brakes, careening out of control, spinning off the road in tight spiral, tumbling trunk over hood to catastrophe? You knew somehow that you had lived on, while others of you ended, trapped over and over, powerless, clenched in fear, frozen, gasping, clawing, screaming.

Reaching your arm across your beloved passenger to keep her in her seat. Even when no one was there?

Or in one case, without even trying to stop, accelerating spontaneously, the last moments of your life burned like a star, flying into the abyss?

This is the sensation of parallel lives.

Once I chose one love over another, but dreamed my other life continued. I saw it all the way through: a simple, contented life of family and joy. But in this life, I went on alone, with those dedicated to Earth.

By 2020 it was clear that the University as it had been envisioned was over. Once built on the ideal of the entire universe of ideas together, meeting in hallways, arguing in classrooms, holding forth before lecture halls, demonstrating over Bunsen burners, then atom smashers, scribbling, then typing, then word processing in offices.

Here, the liberated minds were sacred, tenured, funded in their resistance.

Once a servant of colonialism, the University lived out its promise: rebels repurposed the tools of academia to dismantle, to deconstruct, to decolonize. Critics of capitalism and white supremacy, anointed in its halls as tokens, did not inoculate us: they transformed us!—until we had tools for the great inventories we needed to rebuild the world, for utopia, to create a livable existence for all.

But the very machine we meant to retire—into a nice museum or a history book in miles of library stacks—kept on grinding. The western mania for colonialism devoured the globe then turned on its own creations. Students became customers. Even good-hearted administrators could not save it. Above them someone had an appetite for conquest, efficiency, assessment, standards. The languages of disciplines were shackled to a brand and silenced in their critique. The library was not so much emptied of books as suffocated, forced to breathe and re-breathe the dusty old volumes.

Book acquisitions were over.

And when the plague struck, the patrons quit coming to study and whisper and linger in the rows where once they had turned oxygen exhaled by the forests of books into new air for the old tomes to breathe.

Grieve this for one moment. Picture your library, your campus, now dead, now emptied of meaning, an overpriced Disneyland that held no danger, no discomfort, no challenge, no energy for it from conscripted faculty, indentured students, and no more revolution. See the shining and quiet floors. The lawns. The coffee shops. Full of people. Then ghost haunted.

Now—it is time to build the new world. Look up.

The trick is to wear what we love like loose garments. There is nothing to let go of. Say goodbye to those parallel lives self-destructing, frozen, mourning, too depressed to rise, ranting and beating their fists on administrative walls.

Accelerate into the abyss.

We had already begun to build the multiversity, based on theories of parallel worlds, experiments to revision, islands preserving history, culture, ecology, knowledges, and languages.

We imagined ourselves on arks, like medieval Irish monks who protected ancient manuscripts from marauders, like elders telling stories, making offerings, tending the shrines of ancestors, like archivists of queer zines, like hippy hoarders with all the old press clippings, composition books filled with ball point scrawl, meeting notes, and photos of a revolution, like keepers of heirloom seed collections, of vinyl, or genome projects…

And like the Great Mycelium who stored a plague to save her from the plague of us.

Nepantla [1]

“fashion worlds of pleasure, joy, disruption, and refusal organized by the social desire for transformation.”[2]

Red Mars, golden Saturn, bright Jupiter. The moon in mystical rings before the rain. All of it moving our electrons across 2500 miles and decades. Or Friday, 8 miles down the road. We let our hearts feel the connections. We let ourselves live on silken bridges between.

Part of what we needed to do was envision our world.

We did not need to start from scratch. There was a lot to read. There were friends all around the globe. Reaching into the past, to traditions resilient within this: the toxic form of power now heavy on us. Now restricting us. Now coming to our homes and disappearing us. Now burning us in effigy. Now sheltering us from the pandemic.

In our studies, we came home to the sharp, sweet, new old regimes of identity, in places and times on our own planet. Some had been nearly forgotten, others never fantasized, or seen only on stage and in art. In a snippet of film by a visionary who had been taken from us by AIDS. Sometimes we lacked language to describe and so, we learned languages, until we could design in tongues new to us.

It took courage to recognize. To reiterate. To build from the remnants.

You see, we were leaving, but we would return one day. To Earth. In more than a millennium. We would hope to bring a new way with us when we did.  

But first, we would have to go. And so, we walked in the woods. Breathed in rain. Put bare feet on the ground. Slipped our clothes and walked into the waves, into the current of river, the stillness of lake. We savored.

The sun we noticed lit up our lashes, as in lazy spring days in college, lounging on a lawn with friends.

And those friends were the ones we first dreamed with. In the arrogance of youth, still shocked at what we were learning, at how much was wrong. We leaned over small tables and scones and cappuccinos, to expound. Or leaned back against the greased smooth wood of benches, to listen.

We noticed each other’s eyes. The lines now on our faces, from smiling and kindness and thought. Deep in our sockets we looked into one another and saw histories’ sorrow. We saw one another as brave.

So consider: what do you need for a transfeminist, post white supremacist, decolonized utopia? If you could make a cuir planet—What are the new values? Who do you look like? How do you refuse and disrupt and please and enjoy and transform? How do you “shift from one world to another”?

We took care about these things. We took garbage so we did not need to extract. And we spent all the golden women’s pentacles on this, to churn a new wealth for the future, to feed mycelium, to build our crafts.

In the tarot, The Star is a card identified with Aquarius, the weirdo, the visionary, the star being. It is the card of healing. Of reaching beyond what is. Of envisioning. And of meeting one another under the same moon. For now while we fashion worlds.

And one day, from the multiversities, who satellite near the same far sun.

[1] “I use the word nepantla to theorize liminality and to talk about those who facilitate passages between worlds, whom I’ve named nepantleras. I associate nepantla with states of mind that question old ideas and beliefs, acquire new perspectives, change worldviews, and shift from one world to another.” Gloria Anzaldua, this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation (2002), 2.

[2] Macarena Gómez-Barris, Beyond the Pink Tide (2019). This entry and the cuir-er than queer aspiration in it is humbly inspired by the work of this college friend.