Published on Academy of American Poets (

Why Whales Are Back in New York City

After a century, humpbacks migrate
again to Queens. They left
due to sewage and white froth

banking the shores from polychlorinated-
biphenyl-dumping into the Hudson
and winnowing menhaden schools.

But now grace, dark bodies of song
return. Go to the seaside—

Hold your breath. Submerge.
A black fluke silhouetted
against the Manhattan skyline.

Now ICE beats doors
down on Liberty Avenue
to deport. I sit alone on orange

A train seats, mouth sparkling
from Singh’s, no matter how
white supremacy gathers

at the sidewalks, flows down
the streets, we still beat our drums
wild. Watch their false-god statues

prostrate to black and brown hands.
They won’t keep us out
though they send us back.

Our songs will pierce the dark
fathoms. Behold the miracle:

what was once lost
now leaps before you.


Copyright © 2017 by Rajiv Mohabir. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem to speak out as our government bullies immigrants. This poem is also a love song to my community: It’s been a century since Indian indenture was abolished, and we celebrate on the streets of a different empire that would rather see our brown faces deported. How beautiful that the whales, once threatened by a fouled environment, retreated and now come back that the waters are cleaner; we have so much work to do.”
—Rajiv Mohabir


Rajiv Mohabir

Rajiv Mohabir is the author of The Cowherd’s Son (Tupelo Press, 2017), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize.

Date Published: 2017-10-16

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