Published on Academy of American Poets (


The whales can’t hear each other calling
in the noise-cluttered sea: they beach themselves.
I saw one once— heaved onto the sand with kelp
stuck to its blue-gray skin.
Heavy and immobile

it lay like a great sadness.
And it was hard to breathe with all the stink.
Its elliptical black eyes had stilled, were mostly dry,
and barnacles clustered on its back
like tiny brown volcanoes.

Imagining the other whales, their roving weight,
their blue-black webbing of the deep,
I stopped knowing how to measure my own grief.
And this one, large and dead on the sand
with its unimaginable five-hundred-pound heart.


Copyright © 2016 by Sally Bliumis-Dunn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 19, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘Echolocation’ is the title poem of my third manuscript. When I read that human noise in the oceans makes it difficult for whales to hear and causes them to run aground, I felt deeply troubled. The whole world felt off balance and in a particularly precarious state with these gigantic pendulums of the sea suddenly swinging wildly.”
—Sally Bliumis-Dunn


Sally Bliumis-Dunn

Sally Bliumis-Dunn is the author of Second Skin (Wind Publications, 2010) and Talking Underwater (Wind Publications, 2007). She teaches at Manhattanville College and lives in Armonk, New York.

Date Published: 2016-08-19

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