The headlines that summer: ALL WHALES EXHIBITING SIGNS OF LESBIANISM. Scientists worldwide were distressed by the possible extinction of whales and tried all different ways to inseminate the females: by injection of sperm, by introducing males into their territory, which frequently resulted in lethal fights, by releasing hormones into the ocean with a syringe the size of a submarine, by training members of the human species to learn whale-song and impersonate suitors, by introducing inflatable whale-sized dildos to entice them, by ladling whales out of the ocean and into tanks so that they could be more closely studied, by performing surgeries, unspooling their intestines like lengths of ribbon, securing brain and bone samples, asking animal psychologists to question why, why now, are they suicidal, do they no longer care about the continuation of their species, have they inherited the human quality of selfishness, do they have a language for loneliness, singing and giving birth alone for so many millennia, are they like the animals that return to die in the same place they give birth, what do they do with their umbilical cords, do they knot the cords into nooses or bury them on the seafloor or eat them raw like eels, do they surface to breathe or to watch us, do they know the concept of drowning, do they think the sea is as endless as we do, the depths we have never touched with our tongues, though we wonder about the dark, we wonder what it means to live inside it, in a place where light goes extinct, what do whales drink, does thirst exist in their vocabulary, does desire?
K-Ming Chang (b. 1998) is a Kundiman fellow and a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her debut novel BESTIARY is forthcoming from One World / Random House on September 8, 2020. Her poems have been anthologized in Ink Knows No Borders, Best New Poets 2018, Bettering American Poetry Vol. 3, and the 2019 Pushcart Prize Anthology.
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