Excerpts from "Of Bees and Migrants" by Kevin McHugh & Scott Warren


Place a beehive on my grave
And let the honey soak through.
Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees


In oppressive July heat we move along rough and tumble Pipeline Road in the mountains east of Ajo, Arizona, delivering water to remote migrant aid stations in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands. In the Despoblado, the spectral is everywhere and nowhere. Bodies are 'passings' in an incomprehensible vastness. The landscape is doubly haunted, by unfathomably deep time and by death. Using GPS and thermal cameras, we search for sites along washes reported to be locations where human remains have been discovered.

There is material evidence of migrant crossers along Pipeline Road: plastic gallon water jugs, homemade moccasins (to reduce tracking by the Border Patrol), blankets and bedding, backpacks, hats, clothing, bordados (hand embroidered cloths used to wrap possessions), personal care products, medicines, and palliatives associated with a long journey on foot. There is a spectral perplexity and profundity surrounding the objects—absence in presence, presence in absence—that eludes capture.

We come upon a site strewn with more than a score of abandoned rotting beehives and objects discarded by passing migrants. We wander about the materialities, as if they might somehow reveal mysteries of what transpired here, whispering stories about the bees and migrants who passed through, and what became of them. Have we fallen prey to the phenomenological illusion that “causality must be happening 'behind' objects which are mere surface appearances” (Morton)?

The abandoned rotting beehives and objects themselves are vibrant and forceful, radiating sensations sensible and insensible, vibrating with the inexhaustible Sonoran desert landscape.


This is the language of waves and radiation, or how the dead speak to the living.
Don DeLillo



Dust and Shadow Reader Vol. 2. Previous: bee diaspora. Next: water knife