The men in the bathhouses repeat the scriptures.
They say the City of Desire can be reached in two ways:
by whale belly or by hand,
feeling for cracks along the cave wall.
Both ways require darkness.
The location of the cave’s entrance is long forgotten.
Each day men dive into the sea
expecting water, choking on jellyfish tentacles.
A man is a steamboat with a throbbing boiler—
all iron, all harpoon. A girl carries his past
in the crevices between her teeth. Her tongue
unfurls, a skiff in the laughing wind.
She stashes the night’s loose stars
in her pockets and steers a new course
through the archipelago of rotting backs.
The ruins of men do not interest her.
Follow the whale into its cave
and we all become hunters. She lowers
the men’s bibles like anchors to the sea bottom
and swallows a fistful of stars.
The whale surfaces. Her baleen parts like a curtain.
Lisa Grove's poems and translations have appeared in Poetry, Beloit Poetry Journal, A cappella Zoo, and elsewhere. She is a senior editor for the California Journal of Poetics and an interview host for Poetry.LA. She lives in Los Angeles.