Variations on a Theme



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 


You live on the other side of a

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

          I am Kali.  I am the whore that 
you are.  I am every woman, except the 
one close enough to feel your breath at 


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.



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.


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
       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.


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.



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.


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.


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


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.


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.


What feature, what unexpected
line reels you, so that even

in the bloodied cove, sharks
teeming nearby — you refuse

to let go.