top of page

Self-Portrait as Whalefall and Windowpane
Alston Tyer

Let me be whalefall, dear sisters.

I don’t know how to be

anything but marine snow.

The unlocked bedroom window

I would crawl through to enter

our house when no one was home

was locked fast one night—broken,

the next. Navigable,

but treacherous. I’m too careful

to cut my hands on what remains

in the pane. I have no traversal,

no selkie skin I could slip into

for a quick escape. Anyways,

I’m not a strong swimmer. Peel

the frame of me away,

what’s left but the basalt carcass

of a lithosphere retreated?


A monster in the way

a waxing crescent is a monster,

the way the first and every

August sunrise is a monster.

Choking down heaves of air silent.

Oh, if I were whalefall I could cry!

But the sun turned the ocean’s

salt and sand to sheets of glass,

still pulled by the tides and wrecked

fast on every cresting wave.


And the air around me is always

the same hollow silence that follows

a tire iron hurled through a window,

once the shards settle on the ground.

Under the waves, the whale can only hear

her blood slowing in her ears,

throughout her body.

She can’t surface for the glass

and sinks. It’s all dress-up, anyways.

Our mother’s sleek black ballet skirt,

her Easter dresses from the ‘70s,

a cowboy hat and bandana,

the snug nestled whaleskin.


A provider only in the dark,

in death—I would take for my own

your cruel fates and think myself

the better for it. But what

am I saying? I don’t want to be

an ecosystem. I don’t want

my name beatified.

I want to scream seawater

and have every window across

the world, at the same time, shatter.

lumina logo blue.png
bottom of page