He's read a book on asphyxiation
tells her to keep breathing
says suffocating's the worst way to go –
eyes bugging out -
but there is a peace before death.
He doesn't know how much like a myth
this sounds to her
how she'll think of this promise
when her body wants to stop pulling in breath
how she wonders if she can get to this place of peace
then choose again to breathe
whether she can pull the peace back through her lungs
send it racing to all her twitching extremities -
her antsy feet,
the yearning at the edges of her calves.
The silence of all but her breath
announces his absence
in a way echoed by the messages he's stopped sending,
and she imagines his fingers occupied now
typing code into another woman's elbow
the small of her back
her toe pads providing the alphabet for his sorrows.
She's deep now
and the tanks he filled
with recognition of her
are pulled down to dangerous levels
while the sails of his rescue ship
fill to billowing
racing in someone else's direction.
She paces herself to shallowness
chooses to face the bottom
that will be home for a while.
Strange that the ocean,
which makes so much noise,
is silent from within.
She thinks, perspective is everything,
but all she can hear is herself,
the roaring in her ears an illusion of effort.
Suspended, she wonders why she's here,
but the fish flashing by have no answers.
What else does that book say about death?
He never told her, and now he's too far away to tell her
and anyway, that's why she's here
in this metaphorical sea of silence
that sounds so much like her past
she confuses it for her future.
Understanding, they say, comes in waves,
and hers reaches crescendo just as she realizes,
there's nothing to do but float,
notice what's beautiful as it passes by,
and be thankful for each breath that sustains
the last of her efforts at love.