An orca whale known to researchers as J35 or Tahlequah–that is a member of the critically endangered Southern Resident pod found in the Salish Sea–gave birth to a calf on 24 July 2018, but it only lived for half an hour. The female then proceeded to push the dead calf for days, accompanied in grief by other orcas in the clan. Photo: Taylor Shedd / Soundwatch

By Paul Nelson   
30 July 2018

(Cascadia Magazine) – (For David McCloskey)

Tahlequah is daughter of Princess Angeline

brother of Moby, sister to Kiki, mother

to Notch. Her second offspring was not

born but born still and still un-named &

un-numbered. For five days Tahlequah


pushed her still-born calf around the

Salish Sea, perhaps a hope that she’d

not be a parent to bury a child, perhaps

a grief vigil, the un-named/un-numbered

calf riding dead on her rostrum five days.


Tahlequah, Cherokee for “plains” or a kind

of red rice, or “just two” or “two is enough.”

Or a ferry terminal on Vashon. Five days

says the witness from the whale museum

sitting shiva and watching her “deep breaths.”


She carried the dead calf 20 miles one day

in her teeth from time to time through the

full Ripe Thimbleberry Moon, through stage

one grief, denial. “We are going to be here

as long as necessary for her.” Here


is what your ferry-line idling of your

giant truck brings, 108.7 degree low

temperatures in Quriyat, Oman, eleven

fires in the Arctic Circle, momma whales

pushing around their still-born calves five days.


But you stayed cool in your air-conditioned

life, you had bigger fish to fry than whales

who have no lobby, you idled that engine

until the last glacier died, the last salmon

leapt & last forest burned.


These are the stories the children of our

children will tell if there are storytellers

in their time. How we slept at the switch

ignored the clear signs of doom, how we

were scholars of war & good tweeters


had nice dinner photographs & saved ourselves

from Muslims & immigrants & every vague

threat the cruel majority could conjure

while the world burned & one whale mom

did all our crying for us.


Paul E Nelson

9:24am – 7.28.2018

“We are going to be here as long as necessary for her.” –Quote from Taylor Shedd, Program Coordinator for Soundwatch in the Seattle Times, 27 July 2018.

Etymology of Tahlequah.

Quiriyat in Oman breaks world low temperature record.

Arctic Circle burns as record heat broils Europe.

Elegy for Tahlequah’s Calf

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