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MANUEL LÓPEZ | The Beached Whale

A group of people, nine to be exact, stood by a beached whale on a Wednesday afternoon.

They pointed at the immense specimen, whispering potential causes and inarticulate theories as if the whale could understand English and would suddenly disintegrate if it overheard the nine strangers explicating its apparent predicament, its terminus.

As if English was the universal grammar of the ocean.

As if English first called the sea blue.

As if English was what the whale conjured before it died when it thought to itself: “This might be my last breath in English.”

As if English could ever summon the Empyrean for a poor, vacant whale lying across

a seashore of English.


Manuel Paul López’s books include Nerve Curriculum (Futurepoem, forthcoming 2022), These Days of Candy (Noemi Press, Akrilica Series 2017), The Yearning Feed (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), winner of the Ernest Sandeen Poetry Prize, and Death of a Mexican and Other Poems (Bear Star Press, 2006). He also co-edited two anthologies, Reclaiming Our Stories 2 (City Works Press, 2020) and Reclaiming Our Stories (City Works, 2017), both generated from a community-based writers’ workshop of the same name that he’s co-facilitated since 2016 in Southeast San Diego. A CantoMundo fellow, his work has been published in Bilingual Review, Denver Quarterly, Fairy Tale Review, Hanging Loose, Huizache, New American Writing, Puerto del Sol, The Rumpus, and ZYZZYVA, among others. He lives in San Diego and teaches at San Diego City College.


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