What If the Sound of the Humpback Whale Lived in My Mouth?

By Yaddyra Peralta

before I could speak
            I was a wandering eye
my silence made me feral
            once it came
my language made me spew
            for hours once
I watched the ants the ants
            marching in a line
from kitchen to yard so
            told my mother
I love you more than
            there are ants
in the world

            to this day she calls me
            miga in Spanish means crumb
crumbs everywhere sometimes
            a constellated human gift
if you travel to England alone
            you’ll discover the shingle
beach in Brighton
            you’ll wonder at
the temperature of the water
            how many pebbles
under a blanket of sky?
            if you’re not a prophet
those will be days
            you can get by without speaking
on a rainy day the domed ceiling of
            the Royal Pavilion’s music room
can look like the chiaroscuro
            interior of Gepetto’s whale
when I could talk
            and talk I walked
the actor I liked through the musty
            Museum of Natural History’s
Hall of Ocean Life where I said
            humans should just walk back
into blue waters the color of his eyes
            in Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascape
the Caribbean water is black
            at times still there are no words within
reach for the things
            I want to say
often still
            a large sea swell inside and
language a weak wave
            breaking upon the shore
biologist Roger Payne calls
            whale song “uninterrupted
rivers of sound”
            what did the lost whale
swimming through the brown Thames feel?


Part of the Read By Miami poem film series, produced with O, Miami.

Directed by Eric Felipe-Barkin.

"What If the Sound of the Humpback Whale Lived in My Mouth?" was first published by BOMB Magazine.