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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.

Rajiv Mohabir

Rajiv Mohabir

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

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then the drunk teen scatters
a cascade of copper on cement,
the old Uncle yells, eyes silver
eyes in disbelief, Pick up yuh
paisa, na man! no worry
on this slate day youths dem
speak no Hindi to know paisa
means money, a taxi speeds 
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