San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California

Whoosh they thrust up
in front of me, 30 tons slick as black rubber
shedding waterfalls, showing me
how tiny, how breakable I am,
utterly at their mercy. If they believed
in payback–men slaughtered them here
just decades ago–they could shatter
the boat as a mallet a teacup.

They don’t.

I’m a pilgrim come to see them,
mothers with newborns
frolicking for sheer fun
in their gargantuan way, challenging
my notion of what is uniquely human.
Enormous babies friendly as kittens
asking to be petted–what else
to think when a baby sloshes gently

aside the boat, lifts her mammoth head
with one tiny bright eye, looks at me sideways
straight in the eye
so close her fishy breath gusts
over me? Over and over
with clear intent, mamas nudge babies,
seeming to say, “go, go, meet this human,”—
a sort of cross-species handshake,
a gesture of radical trust

as when Montaigne opened his castle gates
in the wars of religion, saying to the enemy,
“Come inside, feast in peace.”
And they did.


Maya Muir spent her professional life as a freelance writer and book reviewer, only in recently turning seriously to poetry. She’s worked with a mentor, taken classes, and reads poetry voraciously, while developing her writing practice, just now starting to submit for publication. She lives in Portland, Oregon.