We are delighted to announce the winners of our Welcome the Orcas Writing Contest, held in December 2020 to celebrate the seasonal return of the endangered southern resident orcas to central Puget Sound. Thank you to everyone who participated, and helped us welcome the orcas with heart, and art! We were awed, and inspired, by your work.

And with the recent additions of J57, J58, and L25, there are three new calves to welcome! The southern resident community has grown to 75 individuals. Here’s to a new season of hope for the orcas, and the world.

First Prize
The Librarian, by Andy Havens (Adult Category)
J57, by Hannah Lindell-Smith (9th to 12 grade)

Second Prize
Love Them, Protect Them, by Lucy Larkin (Adult Category)
Orca Song, by Hanna Lindell-Smith (9th to 12 grade)

Honorable Mention
Welcome Home, Orcas, by Bobbi Fabbelano (Adult Category)

Read the prize-winning poems below.

(All photos are of southern resident orcas in Puget Sound, courtesy of Mark Sears, NOAA Research Permit 21348. Top photo is new calf J58 with her family.)

The Librarian
by Andy Havens

The orca’s tongue is tattooed in crowblack ink
with the whole history of the Hoh
and the names of Nisqually who breathed the air
in the sacred space between hawk and bear –
hung to cure in a frozen smoke.

In the blackfish grin, written on salmon skin,
lives the library of the Lummi
and the forgotten words to S’Klallam songs
sung in the fog from which they’re drawn –
then gone like a dream’s unblooming.

But the orca speaks, too, the newer words
of submarine and ferry boat
and the sharp dialect of high skylines
that replace the flesh with the crystalline –
concrete terms being asked to float.

A blackfin ripple loops like cursive in the bay
as the orca pens the Pacific tome
and writes Sound verses beneath the surface
in a Salish hand whose arc is perfect –
the scrimshaw line of tooth and bone.

Andy Havens is husband, a father of two, and a US Army veteran living on the ersatz island of West Seattle, WA. He is currently writing poetry focused on Pacific Northwest geography, nature, and history. His poetry has appeared in Fragments Literary Magazine, and the online journal Whatever Keeps the Lights On.

J57
by Hannah Lindell-Smith

You are the wind.

You are the Sun and Moon that light the way.
You are the stars in the darkest of nights.
You are the rainbow after the storm.

You are the waves you swim through,
the child of the life-giving water and your family’s tears.
You are the blood of a dying universe.

You are the fighter and survivor.
You are the salmon that travel hundreds of miles
to give their lives to you.

You are the stories your family will tell you.
You are all that they will give to you,
and the love you will give to all.

You are everything that has come before.
You are the one we have been waiting for.

Hannah Lindell-Smith is a 14-year-old from Seattle, Washington. She is a student, activist, writer, and change-maker, future and present. Watch out, world…

Listen to Hannah read her poem J57:

Love Them, Protect Them
by Lucy Larkin

majestic beings
mysterious creatures
captivating orcas

neglecting needs
ignoring concerns
forgetting consequences

loving them
longing to see
rising from the depths

longing to understand
to be near
wanting more

forgetting
decisions and choices
leaving impacts

eating salmon
using plastic
boating close

changes
needed
now

alternate food
reusable items
standing ashore

future uncertain
action needed
step forward

protect them
love them
save them

Lucy Larkin, formerly of small town rural Sedan, MN, grew up in love with the orcas and a fan of the Free Willy series. Naturally, as they became older, grew into that conservationist mindset of protecting these beautiful creatures. Now a resident of Portland, OR, they are eager to grow more into that role of making the environment better for the future.

Listen to Lucy read Love Them Protect Them

Orca Song
by Hannah Lindell-Smith

I come from days
of sitting on the railing
watching black and white spirits
emerge from the mists and sea
that blur the line between air and water
as they themselves fly below the waves

I come from days
of singing the orcas home
running down to the water’s edge
to welcome back
family from another world
but who share the same heartbeat

I come from days
of standing in the rain
crying with the mothers carrying
their babies a hundred miles in mourning
watching as a number falls like the rain around me

I come from
Granny
Angeline
Tahlequah
Coho
Nova
Star

The sea between us
is an ocean made of the tears
of orcas and humans
and the oceans are rising
rising
I will too.
Will you come with me?

Come. Let us dance below the waves.

Hannah Lindell-Smith is a 14-year-old from Seattle, Washington. She is a student, activist, writer, and change-maker, future and present. Watch out, world…

Listen to Hannah read her poem Orca Song

Welcome Home, Orcas
by Bobbi Fabellano

welcome home, orcas
spyhops, breaches, tail flaps, blows!
J, K, L , heart love

About Welcome the Orcas 2020. The endangered southern residents orcas (J, K and L pods) return to central Puget Sound in fall and winter, following chum salmon runs. Welcome the Orcas is an event hosted by The Whale Trail to celebrate their return and build awareness about this critical part of their range. In 2020 the event was virtual due to COVID-19. Activities included “Put a Whale in Your Window” and a writing contest. Welcome the Orcas 2020 was co-sponsored by Seal Sitters and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Thank you to everyone who participated!