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Written By Quinn Luthy
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Reincarnation explores natural cycles through a queer lens. The piece deals with loss, and rebirth, especially the losses and rebirths that are associated with queer identity; ostracization, internal conflict, self acceptance, and transformation.

Editors’ Note

(CN: Self harm, suicide, homophobic slurs)

There was a great and mighty wind,

splitting mountains and

shattering rocks

by the power of the Lord;

but the Lord was not in the wind.

After the wind – an earthquake;

but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

After the earthquake – fire;

but the Lord was not in the fire.

And after the fire –

a soft murmuring sound.

1 Kings 19:11-12

In the Sea of Cortez two salmon have circled each other for many years. They are waiting. They are waiting because this is an old universe, one that is ready for them. Salmon – which must spawn where they were born have long since abandoned the Colorado river.

A human once, while trekking through the desert of southern California thought that this area would be a good place to maintain permanent farmland. In the past, in the spring, the river flooded its surrounding lands. It picked up silt from these floods, which would be carried along its course and then deposited along the delta. Deltas are big muddy flowers that bloom in April.

Two salmon were born in the Animas River in 1932. In 1940, the Imperial Canal was completed. To mitigate its flow, humans installed thirteen dams along the river. In the spring, the river’s natural flood was used to fill reservoirs, so that cabbage could be grown in Arizona, and so that San Diego, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas could have drinking water. The delta, which once supported a plethora of birds, wildlife, and was a means for salmon the enter the Colorado’s watershed, dried up. Now, it is full of saltwater, full to the brim. Two salmon, who made it into the ocean in 1939, have never eaten cabbage. From 1940, until now, the Colorado river has not made it into the ocean. They have been waiting. Morelos Diversion Dam 2014 – minutes. Minute 319

I authorize a scheduled pulse flow of three million-acre feet from catchment – mark?





This is a historic day for the Colorado river. 

The river mingles with the tidal channels of the estuary. 

Two salmon, who have been waiting, smell fresh water for the first time in over fifty years. Immediately they swim up the channel of the river, which has finally reached the ocean. Their bodies begin to transform. They become more streamlined, and they lose their bright red coloring. In one, eggs begin to develop.

At first, the river channel is small and artificially straightened. It is dirty, they feast on plastic and it becomes a part of them. Then, they reach the Imperial Dam. Their bodies have changed, and two salmon have become sexually mature adults. They have lived much longer than what could be deemed normal for salmon. They are indispensable.

While two salmon were eggs, they were chosen for this, this which will inevitably happen. Pulse flow is a synonym for coincidence, salmon are a synonym for Life itself, which has become distorted and domesticated under human rule, which will be crushed and reborn.

Two salmon see the irony of the Colorado river. Along the Animas River, near the headwaters, and the destination – there are two boys. One is a year older than the other. They are in high school. Their friend bought them a pack of cigarettes which they were smoking. It was their first pack of cigarettes – and for one of them – his last. Normally, they look each other in the eyes. A human can fall in love with another human after looking into their eyes for just five seconds. Today, they look away.

“Why won’t you look at me?”

“Sorry… I don’t mean to say anything stupid…”

“No! I – I’m confused I guess…”

“About what?”

They had reached their last cigarette.

“I just feel like –”

“C’mon tell me”

“-like I have all of these confusing things that I have to contend with. Like a stupid stressful checklist.”

They left their windows open at night so that one boy may sneak into the other boy’s house. They cuddled often.

“Do I confuse you?”

“… A little.”

“Hmm – you need a little bit of luck then. Why don’t we smoke the lucky cigarette and make a wish?”

They looked at each other. While they smoked it, they whispered their wishes out loud to themselves.

“What’d you wish for?”

“I can’t tell you! That’s not how it works!”

“I’ll tell you what I wished for.”

“What then?”

“I wished that we could have a secret.”

“What sort of secret?”

“Our secret?”


“Let’s rob a bank.”

“Hahahaha which one?”

“Not alpine bank, that’s my bank – what about the bank of the san juans?”

“No be serious!”

“Fine. Well, I was thinking. Our secret could be a little kiss.”

They kissed.

At the base of the Imperial Dam, two salmon wait again – for a means to swim upstream so that they may spawn. Nobody knows how they know, but salmon will always return to their birth stream. It may have something to do with magnetism or distinctive flavors of silt in the water. Two salmon notice an outlet of water, deep below the surface.

What is the purpose of intelligent life? They swim up the outlet. Here, the water moves very quickly. They reach a turbine. They wait just below it for a chance to pass. An operator notices a blockage in the pipes.

“We’ve got some fish in the turbines again. They aren’t moving. What should I do?”

“Eviscerate them!”

They decrease the inlet so as to pull the fish into the turbine – this is basic hydraulics. When the fish are within the turbine, the operator increases the inlet, so as to cut the fish into tiny little pieces. However, two salmon are too quick.

“Now they’re blocking the inlet!”

“Then decrease flow and let them pass!”

Again, the operator decreases the inlet, and the water moving within the turbine slows. The salmon reach the inlet and pass into the lake beyond. They are now upstream. When they encounter the next dam, the Havasu dam, they swim up the spillway. At the Hoover dam, they are unlucky and are caught by a biologist and her colleague.

“How’d two salmon make it this far?” She says to her colleague

“It’s truly is fascinating isn’t it!? Think of the journey they’ve had! I propose that we dissect them and turn them inside out and wear them as socks.”

“I want to know all of their secrets.”

She places them in a bucket of water and brings them to her observatory at the top of the dam. She rests the salmon on the asphalt, near a storm drain, and lays down next to them for a picture. They flop around. One of their tails hits the biologist in the face –

“Feisty little fish, I wonder where they’re going.”

They flop over the railing and hit lake Mead with a smack. The biologist gawks. How could have anything escaped her gentle, scientific hands? Her hands that disrupt two salmon.

They do not like to die, even when it is their prerogative even when it is necessary.

Two boys have stopped cuddling. They wonder what is wrong with themselves. At night, each one looks at the sky and is astounded by its utter unfamiliarity. One boy tells his mother that he might be gay, and she bursts into tears. She tells him that she and his father are getting
divorced, she asks him if he would be comfortable with her having full custody over him. The mechanism of intelligent life whirrs. The universe it seems, is expanding at a rapid rate. It is expanding at a rate so fast that light cannot even reach the edges. It is so vast that there are no
edges. It is so immense that it is a paradox. It is a frying egg on a saucepan with no lip, that extends forever beyond the stove.

They see each other at a high school party. They give each other a big hug but don’t talk. Eventually one boy says –

“I think I’m gonna do molly tonight – hold my hair back if something goes wrong?” The other boy smiles a little.


They both do it. They grab a little stone and smash it under a dollar bill with a lighter. They use their school ids to cut it into one big line. Each boy at one end of it. Everyone at the party watches them. They roll up two bills, and snort.

The drip tastes bitter and hurts each one’s stomach – but – as it hits, they cannot tell each other apart. One boy sees himself in his reflection in the other’s eyes and confuses it for a mystical experience. Are they one with everything?

They kiss again, everyone is still watching.



Lil Faggots


Fag one and fag two.
– they blush together and are ashamed at this high school party. One boy runs off into the woods
and the other goes after him.

“You’re like nicotine –”

“What? Why? Aren’t you gonna leave me alone?”

“It’s because you’re addictive like a cigarette.”

“That’s pretty gay.”

One boy pokes the other in the stomach and says, “Maybe we’ve just been gay this whole time!”

They both laugh a little.

They met in preschool and were best friends immediately because both of them loved the color green. They finger painted each other’s faces green and shouted Grinch! Alien! The next day, one boy was still rolling at work.

“What would you like this morning?”

“Gimme a mushroom and ham omelet!”

“You betcha! How’d you like those eggs on your omelet?”

He realizes his mistake and saves himself – “Ahahaha trick question!”

He will get a good tip for being relatable.

The other asks his mom how to make somebody his boyfriend.

“Who is it?”

The other boy blushes.

“Just ask him” says his mom “I’m sure he’ll say yes.”

The other boy’s dad hears them talking. He takes him to the forest and sits down.

“Find one gay thing in here kiddo.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just watch the natural order and live by its reflection son! You don’t see a buck fucking another buck! That would just be unnatural!”

Is it unnatural to wear shoes? Is it unnatural to speak English? At school, one boy is walking down the road with his friends. Two people from the party in their truck throw an extra-large coke at him. It hits him square in the chest. He is afraid that the world is made of eyes.

The other boy gets a swirlie in the bathroom from his friends who have double crossed him.

Two salmon have crossed countless dams together and have reached the last one – Glenn Canyon Dam. It is a tension dam, like the Hoover dam, with arching sides that extend into opposing canyon walls. The curvature of the arch redistributes the immense weight of the water
into the canyon walls. Here, the spillways are large pipes that arc into the air and do not touch the river below. Two salmon enter a holding pattern, circling each other again. They are waiting for another coincidence, something massive to contend with something massive. How big can a
person really get?

The two boys tell each other about their days. One goes home and sits in the shower. He finds his dad’s razor and breaks it. He exposes the blades and they fan out. He plucks one from its arrangement and looks at himself. With every part of himself exposed, it was easy to pick a
place to start. His thigh. He was the one who wanted a secret, he was the one that started this uncontrollable mess. The blade becomes a tool, a tool of control. Maybe this pain will be more painful than the pain of day to day life, but it will be under the boy’s control. This blade becomes
the assertion of power.

He cuts, deeply across his thigh. It works.

As he does so, a gash in the Glenn Canyon Dam forms. It runs diagonally down the concrete and compromises the dam’s stability. It is only a matter of time until the dam collapses now. He cuts again, dragging it on for longer this time. At first, the skin is spliced, it turns transparent for a split second while the cut reveals itself. Then, almost defiantly, blood surges up
and trails down his leg onto the shower drain. The Glenn Canyon Dam collapses, and a torrent of water obliterates everything downstream.

Two salmon have waited long enough. They swim through the remains of Lake Powell. They smell the San Juan River.

Environmental Disaster Devastates the Southwest

Thousands are dead, cities lay in ruin, taboo has been broken and the Colorado river reaches the ocean again until the end of days.

It hurts the boy who cut himself to walk. He feels that he deserves the pain of every step. It reminds him to fight to stay alive, that if he can deal with these lines across his thigh, he can deal with the pain of ruining the other boy’s life.

The other boy hasn’t been to school in days. The one who does go can see people snicker and stare and he wants to walk up to them and ask “Do you wanna touch me? A little freak like me? I could give you gay cooties and my skin could be made out of gelatin and I might be hiding
a hundred spider eyes in my forehead or I could have to cut the mushrooms growing out of my scalp every morning” but he never does.

On the way home, his mom, who is a firefighter asks, “Do you want to listen to the police radio?” A lot of little fires happen all the time in Colorado.

“Sure” he says.

She turns it on, and immediately turns it down. A woman is screaming on the other end.

Fire 509

this is dispatch, we have a suicide at

A woman in the background of the radio won’t stop screaming.

419 Terlun Dr. Requesting an ambulance – likely DOA, over.
Dispatch this is fire 509 sending over an ambulance, over and out.

The boy looked at his mom. This address seemed uncomfortably familiar. The next day at school, he looked for the other boy, the one that he had kissed, the one that he had asked to kiss. But he wasn’t there. His teacher came up to him and said:

“I’m sorry for your loss”

What loss? Was it him? How? Why isn’t he at schoo-

The boy collapses but stays awake.

Two salmon swim up the San Juan river, until it reaches the Animas. The Animas river is their destination, they were both born near its headwaters, where the water is glass clear and smells like galena and minerals.

There the water makes a small murmuring sound. The whole universe shines, begging them to reach their destination. Only in this world, where life was possible, could two salmon spawn in the exact same place that they were born.

Would humanity fall apart if they learned that this was the whole point?

two salmon

The point of everything?

Before his funeral, the boy cut himself again. May was a disaster for humans in the Southwest. At the viewing, the other, dead boy’s mother looked at him with unfiltered hatred. He deserved everything. When he viewed the body, he leaned down to look at the other boy’s cold
little lips. He kissed them one last time.

The other boy’s mother smacked him across the face and picked him up. She carried him outside, he was crying the whole time. She threw him on the ground and kicked him. She jumped on him with all her weight and said

“It was you it was you it was you it was you I hate you I hate you I hate you so much you killed my son. How dare you kiss him how dare you kiss him like this after you’ve killed him leave this place before I kill you I am going to kill you.”

It was her scream that he had heard on his mom’s police radio. He had heard the sound of a mother who had just lost her child. This was a secret that he could hardly bare. He left before they buried him.

That night, he came to his grave. He dug him up and held his body. He said:

“I am so sorry.”

He smoked an entire pack to himself and wished that he had never wished for anything when he finished it. He took his body and walked into the forest near the cemetery. He cradled him all night and played with his hair and cried –

In the morning, two salmon had reached their destination. The other boy’s mother had gone to see his grave and called the police when she saw the gaping hole, and empty casket. The police were searching the woods. The boy and the corpse were about to be found.

One salmon laid its eggs on the riverbank, they clung to river grass and were immensely fragile. The other salmon fertilized them.

When the eggs became fertilized, they each became a singularity.

In the woods by the cemetery, one boy holds the other’s body. He is sobbing. His unfiltered noise became a gravitational pull for the Durango Police Force. Two officers entered the clearing. The boy tried to run; two officers pulled out their tasers. At once, they shot the boy
with their prongs. The boy takes the electrical shock from two tasers and his heart stops. He collapses. Two boys lay dead together.

Two boys become two salmon eggs. The eggs rest on the riverbank for several weeks and then hatch. Two salmon are born. They ride the last of the pulse release of the Colorado River back into the Sea of Cortez.

The universe waits for two boys.

The salmon will struggle to spawn in their homestream, but eventually, they will.

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