Francisco X. Alarcón

Whale Songs

we have no one
but each other

this long night
is overtaking us

we’re whales
singing all alone

in this dark sea
trying to find

each other
in this big storm

oh, we’re singing
about blue skies

about bountiful
satisfying times

about rubbing
bodies and tails

oh, they got us
right this time

we’re harpooned
we’re going down

falling straight
down in a pool

of warm blood
singing as we fall

brothers, sisters
ram their ships

make them pay
for the blood

they consciously
are willing to spill

they’re pulling us
up to their decks

we see their greed
on the long knives

we’re not yet dead
but we’re being cut

into mindless pieces
seagulls are plucking

both of our open eyes
oh, we’re now singing

our last whale songs
calling out all whales:

oh, Father Sun, take
us into your hands

oh, Mother Sea, guard
the entrails they toss

discard to the waves.
oh, ancient whales

of the Arizona sea
desert, we call out

for your mighty
healing powers

make our nation
whole again

a welcoming
open sea to all

oh, sky whales
oh, sea whales

oh, land whales
oh, spirit whales

oh, whales
from the past

oh, whales
from the future

we call out
for you to undo

the wounds
they’ve done

set us free
all unharmed

we’ll praise
sing forever

the precious
gifts of this sky

of this land
this vast sea

that’s always
been ours


Published in the Floricanto Issue, Volume 13:1, Winter, 2012. “Whale Songs” is reprinted from Zyzzyva, Volume XXVI, Number 3, Fall 2010, with permission from the author.

Francisco X. Alarcón (February 21, 1954 - January 15, 2016) was born in California and grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. His books of poems include: Ce Uno One: Poems for the New Sun / Poemas para el Nuevo Sol (Swan Scythe Press, 2010), From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2002), Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes/Sonetos a la locura y ottos peans (Creative Arts Book Co., 2001), Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books, 1992), and Body in Flames: Cuerpo en llamas (Chronicle Books, 1990). He also wrote several poetry books for children. Alarcón's honors include the 1998 American Library Association's Honor for Latino Literature, 1984 Chicano Literary Prize, the 1993 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. He founded the Facebook page, "Poets Responding to SB 1070," taught in the California Poets in the Schools Program, and directed the Spanish for Native Speakers program at the University of California, Davis.