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Egyptian cobra, blue coral snake; Malaysian pit viper, tropical rattlesnake: Lithe, supple, slinky, you celebrate the serpent, making your body an abode for the great regenerator. With every sensual entwinement you extol corporeal intelligence, with every coil you embrace carnal living. And thus all your extensions, flexions and rotations expunge convention from your flesh, and thus you accommodate the shadow that safeguards ambivalence. Vibrant notes, dense and dirty, sizzle off the guitar. Look! Your body is a rose, unfurling its lushness, flaunting its mystery. As my heart beats out the shape of my desire, my body petitions yours: Receive me in your secret cell, that from your attar my ardour may distil the unforgettable!
Kodkod, ocelot; desert lynx, margay: Mischievous djinni, imp of darkness, you beat the rhythm that fires my loins. Yeah! You can stalk and pounce or pursue with speed, you can mimic sunlight pouring through leaves; you’ve got retractable claws in velvet paws, you’ve got omnidirectional ears and night vision: All very fine—I must be just—but finest of all is your gift of lust! Delivering your body to the lascivious groove, yielding your spirit to the boogie, you distil to the quintessence this elixir of lewdness: I can smell it, I can taste it, in every one of your moves. Dancing, you hypnotize yourself, making whole the division within; dancing, you dream yourself, holding the flow from above. And thus, while you honour the self-astonishment of which your sex is the fountain, my body meets yours in the open, beyond all confines.
Grey crowned crane, houbara bustard; purple swamp hen, common coot: If the birds’ elaborate mating displays are impressive, they’ve got nothing on the pirouettes and head-bobbing, the bowing and jumping, to be found on the dance floor. While you dance with Joaquín (who’s kissing you in his dreamhouse), I dance with Héloïse. The enticing curves under her camisole are moulded by a strapless bra; there’s silver embroidery on her black leather cuff and a boar’s tooth on her bracelet. She’s lean yet round, she’s modest yet proud; there’s something sublime in her earthiness. See how she moves! Buoyant, as if still on her drum stool. Is it the way she alternates between the pogo and the Charleston, her hair whipping across her face, that makes me say to myself, She so beautiful I could eat her?
Yellow-throated marten, Siberian sable; black-footed ferret, American mink: Like Gabrielle (with whom I am now dancing while Joaquín won’t let you go), these mustelids have a slim body, a flexible backbone and a bounding gait. Unlike her, however, they do not ovulate automatically; instead, they have to copulate for at least two hours at a stretch to stimulate ovulation. Go girl! I like the way she finds the flow, that harmony of movement and emotion; I like the way she responds to me, that echo and variation. And so she licks the honey from my hands, and so I drain the innocence from her eyes.
Tasmanian devil, barred bandicoot; Virginia opossum, marsupial mole: The marsupial mole can tunnel down to two-and-a-half meters in desert sand. It swims through the quartz crystals, leaving no permanent tunnel: This way of living is shared by Muriel (with whom I am now dancing) but not by Adelaide (with whom you are now dancing). ‘Sex crime’: Muriel knows Nineteen Eighty-Four by heart. I guess its images serve as analogies: Her maniacal mother, her strait-laced father. She’s never lost the reflex of playing possum. For a while, with she and I, it was the blind leading the blind. Faith preserved friendship. Now, discreet and oblique, the walking wounded play games with each other’s crutches. It’s a kind of loving, I suppose. ‘The difference between us, Sprague’, she’d say, ‘is that you, with your scribbling, want to leave a trace of yourself, whereas I want to cover my tracks. That’s why I’m in fashion: It’s ephemeral’. ‘Sex crime!’ I think of our respective murders in suburbia and how we’ll never be rid of the scars; I think of the friendship between us, the solidarity of survivors. Is that why, as the song comes to an end, there’s such tenderness in our embrace?
Black-breasted snake eagle, hen harrier; Andean condor, red kite: The Andean condor can soar at altitudes of over five thousand meters, travelling great distances with only the occasional flap of its wings: There’s something aloof about Nicole (with whom I’m dancing while you dance with Xavier), something of the long-distance runner. I love the sensual cadence of her swaying, her give-and-take with time. I move in close and learn that she’s mad about horror movies. Body snatchers, aliens, ex-humans with crazed eyes. That gets her excited. ‘And what excites you?’ she asks me. ‘Art’, I answer. ‘And Marietta, what excites her?’ ‘Risk!’ She gives me a knowing look. Now as she and I strive to derive the immortal from mortality, I imagine her screaming in a late-night cinema. Is it horror’s obsession with feminism that draws her to it? Does she have fantasies of being a final girl? Nicole, Nicole, to rip the veil from your world I’d have to lick the blood from your knife: Those days, thank heaven, are far behind me now.
Spectacled bear, Asiatic black; Alaskan grizzly, polar bear: Compared with other carnivores, bears walk slowly and deliberately, with all five toes as well as their heels touching the ground: She hardly moves her feet, Julie, when she dances (I’m dancing with her while you’re dancing with Jean-Luc). She compensates, though, with a sexy to-and-fro of her torso and a charming je-ne-sais-quoi in her arm movements. There’s a fullness to her flesh, a real physical presence, yet as puppet artist she must have mastered the world as shadow play. Her modesty moves me. How many ways are there of being a woman? In the infinite variety of the universe, nothing touches me more than femininity. So many women, so little time! No, that’s not it. For in every woman there are all women. No, that’s not it either. What then? Shut up, just dance! I surrender to Bowie’s impeccable taste. Look! The Botticelli smile on Julie’s face has been replaced by the swoon of Bernini’s Teresa! Oh Julie, Julie, I tell you truly, more than how you dress, I love how you undress me! Use me, use me, my puppeteer, use me to burst your body into flame: Have no regrets when the dance is over.
Golden tree snake, black-headed python; African tiger snake, emerald boa: A serpent’s tongue is never trapped in the interlacings of language, but for us, speaking is necessary to create the silence in which to approach: My hands resting on the small of your back, yours meeting at the nape of my neck, we silently choreograph the eros of redemption. Eyes met and matched, our bodies attuned, in contact, we sway to the voluptuous syncopations of Ferry’s lush song. And thus, intoxicated by the courage that freedom requires, we create a space in which we are alone in each other’s presence. Deep in the heart of the flowing music, in the twists and turns of its undercurrents, I find a stillness in which I can touch you in the light of your transcendence. It’s quarter to two on the morning of New Year’s Day. I love you. That’s all I wanted to say.
Ring-tailed lemur, slender loris; thick-tailed galago, ruffed lemur: Like you and I, lemurs store darkness in their eyes: They know that light never illuminates the whole without paralyzing becoming. Between shadow and light, therefore, they insist on a sharing, for discourse loses its relation to desire when it breaks with becoming. And if not desire, what else makes life worth living? Thus, threading our moves into a sequence that preserves connection, we come to transpose to tango our search for stillness in motion. That Saturday night not so long ago when we listened to Astor Piazzolla, we must have listened with our bodies—how else to explain our knowing what to do when Grace Jones set her words to the Argentine’s tune? As we conduct our corrida of love, I feel in my bones the despair Grace Jones speaks of. And yet it doesn’t silence the song in my blood, it doesn’t diminish my pleasure in you. The mad pleasure of knowing you’re mine even as you belong to yourself alone; the sad pleasure of all I want to give you compared to the little I can. Marietta, this reggae-tango is the very mark of my métissage, it’s elegance and dignity is the signature of your style. And now as the boat of your body courts the river of time, I know I will love you till that river runs dry.
Jaguar, cheetah, lion, tiger: All cats have large forward-facing eyes that enable them to judge distances accurately. The pupils contract to a slit in sunlight and dilate widely at night, giving the cats excellent vision: Eroticism begins with the gaze, my love, it begins with fascination: As the Latin rhythms create a force field to which every sinew in your body responds, the guitar sears its sensuality into your flesh: Ecstatic—your whole body given over to pleasure, your beauty at fever pitch—you dance in a voodoo trance, fascinating me. What is the secret that preserves your mystery? Love hasn’t brought you out of the wilderness; familiarity hasn’t tempered your strangerhood: Your mystery remains as dark and enticing as ever. As your feet outline ellipses and your hands sign arabesques, I am suspended between the way you move your hips and the way you part your lips. Why does the poet of Genesis says Adam knew Eve, not Eve knew Adam? Why do we say a man knows a woman and not a woman knows a man? You know me better than I could ever know you, you know me better than I know myself. Dancing with you, I peel through the Biblical palimpsest and discover Lilith where there was Eve; I discover the simultaneous creation of man and woman in the place of Eve’s derivative birth. Lilith’s banishment did not abolish pleasure, Eve’s expulsion did not cause the misery of man. Marietta, you are my black magic woman: You are inexhaustible, and everything is mine to learn.