2019 Right Whales, High School, Poetry
teach me to take something ugly:
blood bone fat—
and make it beautiful.
I will take your children
and turn them into blood-streaked light.
—except now they will never be able
to sing my own children to sleep
with deep, swirling echoes and
a primal beauty that will inspire belief again
in the creatures of lore.
They said to call it
the right whale as in
right to hunt, because it did not know
to fight for its home
once men deemed the coast ours
with their sweat-slicked harpoons.
never mind its right to live.
I want my daughter to grow up
not with baleen corsets but with
that light in her eyes
as we stood on the beach, silent,
the glistening tail sinking back into the ocean.
Salt in her hair, sand scratching my throat,
as she asked me if the whale would come back.
What would it come back to?
It is not enough to stop hunting—
and leave nets of rope and oil and waste
floating like poison.
Six hundred left—
She has found more seashells in a day
than there are right whales in the world.
But she does not want the seashells.
I grew up spending my summers in Boston harbor, and there would always be advertisements for whale sighting cruises tacked to wooden beams, fluttering in the ocean breeze. I will never forget the exhilaration of seeing the whale in the distance—a spray of mist, a black-blue tail—and then it was gone again. However, I didn’t realize what "gone" truly meant until I did the research to write my poem, and that inspired the title. Living here, I shared not only a home with these whales, but a heartbreaking history. I began my poem with an image of whaling, but moved towards current issues, and tried to create an overall message of advocacy, not pessimism. I wanted to capture the sense of amazement I had felt myself through the little girl who sees the whale in the poem, and I hope that others will be able to understand this innocent desire to protect these magnificent animals.