Whales Who Come to Tadoussac, Quebec

I remember you,
erotic poets of the sea,
surrounding the whale-watch boats,

in fog and in pain,
I sent up my silent calls to you:
O come,
O live,
O let me caress your mind.

Humans, who poisoned the waters
and set earth on fire,
you approach with song.

Teach me to do the same.


– Harriet Ann Ellenberger
30 July 1989, revised 4 February 2016

note: The earlier version of this poem was published in L’Évidente lesbienne, no. 17, février 1990, and in Ms. Magazine, July/August 1993.


Published by

Harriet Ann Ellenberger

writer, editor, translator; co-founded the journal "Sinister Wisdom"

5 thoughts on “Whales Who Come to Tadoussac, Quebec”

    1. I read it that way too, with the beings mingling. The poem is based on a real incident in the early 1990s — a friend took me on a whale-watch boat ride, and it was foggy and there were no whales, and then just as the captain was heading back to the harbour, suddenly there they were — and they did surround the boat, and leap, and sing. And everyone in the boat was very very excited.


  1. Gosh Harriet whales are poets…. wow I missed the obvious even though my love affair with them has been life -long. I remember as a child/adolescent going out in the fishing boats off Monhegan Island and being surrounded by these gentle creatures. They live through my dreams.


    1. I would’ve missed it too except that when I was writing the original poem, I remembered having heard a scientist who recorded and did computer-analyses of whale songs saying that a whale song conveys as much information as do the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. Iliad, Odyssey, Homer, poet, whale song … they all glumped together in my mind, and out came “erotic poets of the sea.” I must’ve added the “erotic” part because whales seem so lovey-dovey with each other and because they move through the water in such a sensual way.


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