the ontological point where the harbor curves into girlhood

by Caelan Ernest

meet me at the midnight dip 		  for a sequin plunge     for the tide
caught in a rip 	 	           we’ll dunk down 	 	        to the bottom
             of the seafloor		 	 in time to catch sight
of the the blue lobster 	 	         as she 	 	 	                bounces
             off the oyster’s pit
	 	 	 	 	                 revealing its belly

              is just a gum 	 	 a kind of jelly 		 clutching its pearl
like a headstone        facing 		 west 	 	 	 & there 

              will be dancing 	 	 there will be 	 	 a masquerade
the urchins have invited us 	 	 to wear 	 	 	            their bodies
	 	        on our faces like decorations, 	         old periwinkle
              shells on our nipples 	 like pasties—     even the hermit crabs
will break           out of dormancy 	 	 just to show their feet 

for one night 	 	 	           meanwhile 	 	   somewhere above us

             all the voices of the harbor fuse 	 	   into one              voice
their many lucid vibrations rattle the water 	 	 	 our celebration  
             put to a rest 	 	
	 	 	 	                   my body dripping 	 	 in a former wet

	 	 	 	 	 	                            picture it

an orange hat 		 flying off the bow 	 	 of the boat 	 	
             all those years ago 	 	 	             bobbing
	 	 	                 at the surface 	     as if	 	      for air
	 	 	 	 	                          the child’s fingers curl
                                                                  reaching back

	 	 oh pond,             i know the fun 	      can’t last          forever
	 	 so swallow me 	         spit me out 	 	    on the north side
	 	 where the sandbar breaks 	 	 	 	                 into breach
	 	 toss me with your tongue          to the island 	 	 of no man 

we both know	 	 the harbor’s 	 	 wailing voice
will never consider this              a proper burial 	 	 without ritual 		
	 	 	 	 	 	                         don’t mourn me

before morning has enough time           to shake the stars off the roof
              of this place 	 	      yes, pond— 	 	    above me
the clammers will continue to ride out at dawn 	 	 	
in search of harvest 	 	      for their wives		 	     & children
                                                                                                     picture it

	 	          the mermaid spurred by the occasion
	 	          to come out of retirement & sing
	 	          her famed song	 
this blighted morn
oh, pond,	 	 it’s you
it’s you who has been
all along


Caelan Ernest is a nonbinary poet, performer, and thingamajig living in Brooklyn, NY. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in WUSSY MagazineHayden’s Ferry ReviewBAEST JournalWe Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics (Nightboat Books, 2020), The Poetry Project’s House Party, The Felt, and more. They hold an MFA in Writing from Pratt Institute. They are Director of Publicity at Nightboat Books. Hit them up on social media: @transputation.