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Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication. For more information about how to syndicate Poem-a-Day, contact poem-a-day@poets.org.

Why Whales Are Back in New York City

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, October 16, 2017.
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

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.

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

previous poems

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September 25, 2017 Metamorphosis: 1680 Linda Bierds
September 24, 2017 Portent William Carlos Williams
September 23, 2017 Fall Leaves Fall Emily Brontë
September 22, 2017 In Autumn Mark Irwin
September 21, 2017 Wind James Arthur
September 20, 2017 The Sin of Pride John Koethe
September 19, 2017 The War in Colors Dunya Mikhail
September 18, 2017 Mistake Heather Christle
September 17, 2017 The Expiration John Donne
September 16, 2017 A Moment Mary Elizabeth Coleridge