20. Variations on a Theme Distance 1. I am in the middle of a rift, walls collapsing. All around me, I seek your voice, an oxygen line direct from the surface. You promised this, only, if nothing else. Intentions are delicate flowers. I am railing against the soft rubble of nothing. 2. You live on the other side of a continent. Between her fine hair and mine, you seek her, while drawing country lines, saying that her borders are nowhere near. The spikes burn at the sole. Inadvertent, I kiss her, through you, transferring desire. I am Kali. I am the whore that you are. I am every woman, except the one close enough to feel your breath at night. 3. Her kisses are as close as the corner store. Mine are atop Kilimanjaro, for all that matters. They drill spikes into my head. They strike the steel pins, while laughing over cups of espresso. I picture you in that shop with one -- or perhaps in a private room -- or walking along the boulevard ... which will it be tonight? Each fraction of the clock is full of scenarios. Degeneration 1. Shipping routes intersect at the point when you say, "You know who she is." This sting ray drops from your mouth as if you were a sea monster swallowing the ocean. You speak as if you cannot gut us in a minute. From across the table, you say, "Which one could she be?" Your tentacles extend into hidden niches, constrict fish. In my coral reef, you met her. 2. Your ship is full of holes, on the open waters, you have no direction. The sailors use flares, signal SOS, and still you steer her aground, wreck her masts, cast away her ballast, change course, take in tack, sail before the wind, ... anything to avoid the dry dock, to never come to a landing again. 3. I would like to drown you in an oil spill, coat your feathers in slick death, string each of your primordial ganglion, blow air into your gills, dehydrate your wetlands, pierce the plates of your exoskeleton, flood your freshwater with salt, rip fins off your body, until nothing swims or crawls in your biosphere. Instead, I find myself offering a palmful of water lilies. Drowning 1. A splash of water shocks my body, upon diving past the surface -- unknown expectations, of when, of where the next dive will stun. No one mans the helm. I exhaust time consuming the details of your face, in another encounter that might plunge under the tides and dissolve like kelp. 2. Underwater my lungs scorch, leagues of pressure expand my head, verging explosion. Blood, with the sting of jellyfish, barrels into my limbs. Without warning, a submarine sounds an alarm, submerges, becomes armed with walls of khaki. Unexpectedly, it rises, bursting into the rarefied air. Islands are mirages on the open sea. 3. One can spend only so much time underwater, before the damned desire to gulp air, as a wide- eyed child faced with an ocean full of luminous sealife, demands. Every minute is inhaling your night air. I lurch with the swell of waves, drenched with the spray of contact, skin to water. The moon cut from the glow of cursed silver. Enduring, not considering the others, is being held, kicking, thrashing, gasping for your essence, pinned to the bottom of the ocean, against the natural ascent towards air. Coda: Duplicity 1. Her face is an outline of what you desire. I look for her, where we share land. I examine her moves, her grace: the composition of her soul. 2. In each woman, I find her. It isn't hard: the world is a small town. Her exact features are unimportant, unknown to me; in her, I find myself. 3. What feature, what unexpected line reels you, so that even in the bloodied cove, sharks teeming nearby -- you refuse to let go.