leahy dispatch


Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

To sing of what I fear,
shaking my body,
has an integrative power.

Sometimes something is
so funny even my legs laugh.

I do not know
the frequency of god,
but I adore
the frequency of laughter.

Not all frequencies are free.

I’ve learned this the hard way
from people who would profit
from what makes others shake.

Who teaches us to fear?
Who teaches us to laugh?

I would show you aspen
winnowing the wind
so that you would always
ken beauty from quake.

But it is not mine to always.

It is mine to some,
to often,
to rarely,
to mostly,

if I’m lucky,
to mostly   love


On Empathy & Time, Re: Wildness


matthewson dispatch

Applegate, Oregon

I killed a turkey with my car while thinking about empathy and the Brewer’s Spruce. I hit it with such force the bird flew across the highway landing in the ditch with the thistle and grass. I killed a turkey and didn’t turn back, but the light from the passing afternoon was like honey, and with the traffic steady at four p.m. on the two-lane road and the storm having just moved east, I considered the death of the animal a possible inconvenience to my daily commute. A temporary delay. But no—that’s not what it made me feel. In fact, I’d wished I reversed my car—I did not feel indifference for killing and thought perhaps my duty was to bury the animal, collect the feathers from the highway and gully (strewn there like a child’s game of marbles or rice, flowers across graves, split metal framework, diamonds) and string them through my yard on lines and sticks, decorate the children’s fort, or at the very least, light a candle for its soul. Perhaps strip its body of organs and skin and keep it for dinner. But I didn’t do any of those things. I kept driving, alert to the lingering startle of both bumper and bird. How does a turkey die? What part of its body stops working first? The heart? Did it break its backbone, its sympathetic trunk? Had it only been out foraging for spring buds and last year’s acorns? And what had I been thinking of empathy? —of certain identification with the mountains, of home, of wishing for political forces to cultivate a sense of care for this place I live, a kind of fellowship maybe, something meaningful, close to love. I was sad about the turkey, and the government too, until upon arriving home, I forgot entirely of the bird and death and Republicans when my daughter met me in our driveway, “Hi, Mama!,” half embracing me with a toothy smile and a bowl of crackers in her small hand.

On Empathy & Time, Re: Wildness

A Walk Inside the Epicenter


Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, NY
Jackson Heights, Queens

By the time you read this, more of my neighbors will be dead.

And yet, on this sunny spring day that belies the grim headlines, I need to go for a walk, that most mundane of human activities. I need to pretend that life is normal. To forget that just a short distance from my apartment stands Elmhurst Hospital, the epicenter of the coronavirus within New York City, itself America’s epicenter.

A Walk Inside the Epicenter

Perfectly Spaced


Image of two girls dancing

They jog past my window. A clump of three white-haired men, a tight pyramid formation, the front two shoulder to shoulder, the third right on their heels. And I’ll be honest, my first thought is not charitable. “Fucking men,” I think, taking a swig of my coffee. “They never think the rules apply to them. Do they think they’re invincible?”

Perfectly Spaced

Going Home


A photograph of a graffitied window

The road to Amsterdam

Our plan was always to go home to Amsterdam at the end of March. By then, we will have been on the road for 200 days. But now home is the new coronavirus epicenter. The projections are that the Netherlands will follow the pattern set by Italy. With only so many hospital beds, respirators and medical staff, Dutch doctors will have to triage. They will treat the younger patients with a higher chance of survival. The others are on their own.

We have no good choices. Staying on the road presents its own dangers. Hotels are vectors for infection. So are restaurants and public transportation for so long as they stay open. We could hunker down in an AirBnB. But who will tell us when the lockdown begins or ends?

Going Home

A Sliver of Wild



Coastal Virginia

Sunday morning, Buckroe Beach. It’s early, before the kids and kites and coolers. A different crowd is here. Another breed of beach-lover.

A small group of Baptists emerges from the water’s edge. The men, burly and robust, call and jostle in boyish exuberance. The sisters, in flowing white, hover around one woman wrapped in a maroon beach towel like a rescued bird; damp curls cling to her forehead. She is radiant.

Just past the pier, the yoga class that started a few weeks ago has already doubled in size. The backsides of fifty-plus downward-facing dogs in every possible size, shape and color, stretch toward the heavens.

A Sliver of Wild

Public Survey


Public surveillance footage of Tehran, Iran, depicting street stones

Tehran, Iran, through public surveillance footage

all begins slowly like anything else. night. two birds walk together through a cobblestone alley.
the rooster first, then the hen. if I were to invert this order, begin again. there is a pile of bags

a pile of white cloth sacks. the objects transform themselves as I write. two bicycle
tires over the sacks to restrain them. a waiting for the image to come from darkness.

Public Survey

A Geology of Memory: Whiteside Mountain, North Carolina


Image of mountain

Romanes, Whiteside Mountain from Road to Grimshawes

Whiteside Mountain, North Carolina

Some call it the world’s oldest mountain. Once, millions of years ago, it was Mount Everest.

Quartz and feldspar stripe the cliffs of this vast pluton, which looks burnt, as if it had survived some great conflagration or were, in fact, a meteorite scarred by its descent through the atmosphere.

A Geology of Memory: Whiteside Mountain, North Carolina

A Delta Hereafter


Image of a wall with writing

Brinkley, Arkansas

The catfish arrives curled and snarling with grease, alongside fat disks of white onion, green tomato relish and wrinkled packets of tartar sauce. I proceed through it clumsily, betraying my Northern-ness, but I guess that much was plain when I opened my mouth.

As if she’s read the questions in my notebook, the waitress wipes tables and worries aloud to her only other customer.

A Delta Hereafter