Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Bettina Judd





day three

a group of female orcas gather around J35 (aka Tahlequah) for two hours at sunset.

you carry it anyway. you carry

once more, our babe found by

the sea. we open, sister, we open

the grave of moonlight’s reflection

too, shall be gone in the morning

but here you’ll be, and we always

with you. we, with you and you

a gift to the disappearing moon

a gift to the disappearing we

you carry it anyway, you carry

although we may not see

you carry it anyway, you carry

and we, always with you

and we, always with you


day four

and we, always with you

Tahlequah. your name rolls

off my tongue familiar, round

vowels & eloquent consonants, bit

from a knash, the gash a witness.

look what they have done to my

memory, the land of our bodies

the world mourns with you

has me reeling, endangered

has me reeling and worried

and we see, Tahlequah, the last few

of the black fish, not leaping now

in a cage for our delight but diving

to hold yours up to the light


day five

to hold yours up to the light

its quality uncertain, who would

see little one glisten in black,

threaten to return. dive—

your back a black sight. red flesh

refusing water, shrinking

though your hunger cannot

oh, empty belly and womb

make room for every mouth

aching to compose this song

we move this sea, make the waters

cold and rich. we move this sea

its sound deep blue. sing, mother you

the one. make us free in your wake


Photograph of Bettina Judd by Bettina Judd.

Bettina Judd is an interdisciplinary writer, artist, and performer whose research focus is on Black women's creative production and our use of visual art, literature, and music to develop Black feminist thought. She is currently Assistant Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her collection of poems on the history of medical experimentation on Black women titled patient. won the 2013 Black Lawrence Press Hudson Book Prize. More information in her and her work can be found at More from this author →