Narwhals Are Real

a student announces—proclaims—
on a February Tuesday, leading to
a week-long deep dive

of researching you, Narwhal,
horned and mystical depth dweller
I haven’t thought much about

until now. One-toothed wonder,
you whirl open to devour prey whole.
I would expect nothing less.

On the Internet, you have a cult
following, unicorn of the sea—
crocheted into one-horned beanies,

printed on T-shirts and mugs
and phone cases, tattooed across backs.
There’s a plushie of you with a mustache

and a monocle, a beanbag chair,
an enamel pin, night slippers, and meme
after meme after meme. Your eyes

are always wide and kind. A blogger
I stumbled upon has I’m obsessed
with narwhals! as the first line

of her bio. And how couldn’t we be?
In this month of love, I’ll call this
a valentine, Narwhal. In Inuktitut

your name means “the one point
to the sky.” This month we launched
the heaviest rocket into outer space.

As I watched the slow burn
of the descending boosters, I thought
of you, Narwhal. How your horn

is a needle on a record, skipping
heartbeats. How your pulse plummets
as you swirl into the arctic dark.




un estudiante anuncia —proclama—
un martes en febrero, mandándome
en una semana entera de inmersión

en investigación de tí, Narval, cornudo
y místico habitante de la profundidad
sobre el cuál hasta ahora no he pensado mucho.

Fenómeno monodentado
te devanas para devorar a tu presa entera.
Espero nada menos de ti.

En el Internet, tienes un seguimiento
de culto, unicornio del mar
—tejido en una gorra con cuerno

imprimido en camisetas, tazas
y estuches de teléfono, tatuado en espaldas.
Hay un peluche de tí con un bigote

y monóculo, una silla saco de semillas,
un alfiler de esmalte, zapatillas de noche y meme
después de meme después de meme de tí. Tus ojos

son siempre grandes y generosos. Una bloguera
que encontré tiene ¡estoy obsesionada
con narvales! como la primera frase

de su bio. ¿Y cómo no estarlo?
En este mes del amor, voy a llamar este poema
un valentine, Narval. En Inuktitut

tu nombre significa el punto
al cielo. Este mes lanzamos
la nave más pesada al espacio exterior.

Mientras veía el lento arder
de los impulsores descendiendo, pensé en ti,
Narval. Cómo tu cuerno es una aguja

en un disco, saltando latidos del corazón.
Cómo se desploma tu pulso
mientras arremolinas en el oscuro ártico.


All the public places I’ve cried:
airports, beaches, parking lots—

so many—waiting rooms,
parks, train platforms,

benches. Whose loss
is shed? The bluish distillate

in Rilke’s saucerless cup
was watered down with tears

to be more bearable.
In this morning’s coffee

tears dissolved like comets
into darkness. If I need a good cry

I watch that astronaut singing
“Major Tom,” playing his guitar.

Astronaut tears are Jell-O.
Even this physics makes my heart

confetti. You’re too emotional,
you said, as my eyes irrigated

the flower beds. In India, Colombia,
Chile, Japan, and the Philippines,

you can still hire a professional
mourner. Crying in public

ought to be easier. Designated
trees or hilltops might help.

Or an hour of tears,
when we can howl in unison

and then return to our
diluteness. I mean dailiness.

Crying is inevitable
when headlines read

like requiems. When
Cihuacoatl prophesied

the conquest of Mexico
all she could do was cry.



Todos los lugares públicos donde he llorado:
aeropuertos, playas, parqueaderos

—tantos— salas de espera,
parques, andenes de trenes,

bancos. ¿La pérdida de quién
se derrama? El destilado azul

en la taza sin platillo de Rilke
fue diluido con lágrimas

para ser más soportable.
En el café de esta mañana

mis lágrimas se disolvieron como cometas
en la oscuridad. Si necesito un buen llanto

miro a ese astronauta cantando
“Mayor Tom,” tocando su guitarra.

Las lágrimas de astronauta son gelatina.
Esta física hace de mi corazón

confeti. Eres demasiado emocional,
dijiste, mientras mis ojos irrigaban

las flores. En la India, Colombia,
Chile, Japón y Filipinas,

todavía puedes contratar a una plañidera
profesional. Llorar en público

debería ser más fácil. Designados
árboles o cimas de colinas podrían ayudar.

O una hora de lágrimas,
cuando podemos aullar al unísono

y luego volver a nuestra
diligencia, a lo diario.

El llanto es inevitable
cuando los titulares suenan

como réquiems. Cuando
Cihuacoatl profetizó

la conquista de México
lo único que podía hacer era llorar.


Every mother stitches her children
out of superstitions. We decide
this as we talk about pregnancy
under Walgreens’ incandescence.
That W—more balloon animal
than letter—loops up, embraces
itself, and presents its fullness:
a totem, stone fertility
goddess, headless
and full-bodied.

These signals catch me
more frequently these days.
The curve of a grapefruit,
the rev of an engine, peonies,
aquarium’s sea horses,
a quarter’s ridge, a quarter slot,
my neighbor’s wind chimes,
blue jay, a swollen tea bag,
morning shower steam, malachite
mound on my nightstand,
your guttural snoring,

anything in bloom. I am
collecting them, listening
closely, waiting for a voice
to reach through time
to say ready.

I grew up with a mother
who sought signals from everything.
This Thanksgiving again
my childlessness is on the table,
wedged between the canned beets
and empanadas. My molars
crush the butter and salt
from the Brussels sprouts. I add this
popping of leafy heads to my list.

I’ve known the names
of my unborn children
for years. Yet saying them aloud
feels elegiac. When I think
of having a child, I’m confronted
by the latest National Geographic
centerfold of ice floes detached
from an iceberg.

Lost in the continuously
dissolving world, I keep
collecting: the shape of tea leaves,
rain clouds, crease lines
my hand makes when its balled
into a fist. Meaning maybe
my body is only meant
to carry my ocean?