Searching for Venus and Adonis

Portrait of Venus and Adonis

"Is it not better to fall into the hands of a murderer
than into the dreams of a woman in heat?"

          -- Friedrich Nietzsche,
          Thus Spoke Zarathustra,
          "On Chastity"

"She red and hot as coals of glowing fire,
He red for shame, but frosty in desire."

          -- William Shakespeare,
          Venus and Adonis

My daytimes are filled with vivid daydreams:
Moving to the South of France; a woman
Alone with a man and a hunk of Brie; the violent deaths
Of my ex-lover, my boss, my students--but mostly I fall
Into the reverie of sex, an undercurrent of heat
That follows me into each day again and again.

On Tuesday, we had rehearsals again,
St. John's Passion, by Bach:   the death
Of Christ abstracted into German.   David's baton falls,
And I catch your eyes, so unlike a woman's
Gaze, looking at me.   On each downbeat, I dream
Of undressing you, your clothes like rose petals in the heat.

We return on Thursday, and there is no heat
In the church.   David makes us sing the crucifixion again,
And I feel, I know your gaze intensifies.   Women
Are born knowing they are being watched.   But in my dreams,
You are Adonis, and I am Venus.   We know not of death.
We chase each other as if in Eden, before the Fall.

Rehearsal ends.   Is it blind luck that befalls
Me when you ask for a ride home?   I turn on the heat
And my car warms up slowly.   I am like a wild woman
Alone with her prey.   This all unfolds in dream-
Time: when two centuries have passed, it is daylight again.
Emerging from the Golden Gate, I die a little death.

But as with all good fantasies, the death
Of love so shallow comes swift.   When you call me again,
It is to kill the boy of my Venus and Adonis dream.
In consolation, you say, "I wish we had met last fall,"
As if the absence of cold were the same as heat.
The Goddess of Love has become the Other Woman.

At times like this, I tire of being the woman
Scorned in this drama, a failed Atalanta.   Must I fall
Always into the same traps I set?   I heat
Up some leftovers, turn on the T.V., and ponder death,
Love, and the changing of seasons.   Again,
It is the one who got away who appears in my dreams.

Bereft so soon, all my dreams become sexual: a free-fall from a ten-story building
Ends abruptly when I wake up, alone again.   I am bored to death, with only
The heat of fantasies to warm me from this reality: a woman alone in San Francisco.

16 February 1996
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Sylvia Chong (