by: Joseph T. Shipley

      UXURIOUS languid tiger-lily, swaying
      Unconcerned, my lips are burned with the kiss
      You waft me, my head turned, and I swoon with bliss.
      Out of the anguish of your arms I'm praying
      That life shall end with this.
      You are my memory of Egyptian suns
      When I adored the phallic pyramids
      And found you couched beside the Sphinx, that bids
      Beware. Frantic and vain my dream that once
      Love seeped through drowsy lids.
      Where no gods be, man makes his god, and you
      Are god or devil fashioned for my woe;
      From you my pangs and parlous pleasures flow;
      Would I had strength to be blasphemous, untrue,
      Would I could bid you go!
      But all a hemisphere whirls in the tress
      You shake at me; imprisoned there I dwell.
      Its secret dreads I do not dare to tell;
      It is my paradise--ah! who will bless
      Me with the gift of hell!
      And you have loved before--if the flaming passion
      That roars through you to what it shall consume,
      Be love--and I would wring an awful doom
      On those who held you first, and I would fashion
      Their strait abysmal tomb.
      There I would bid you wander, calling, calling
      The ghosts of those with whom your frenzy played
      Discarding (Were you ever an untried maid?)
      I would engulf you there. Run blindly, falling!--
      But that I am afraid.
      And fear is new to me; I fear and wonder;
      I prick my flesh with fear to feel it squirm.
      I grasp you, quivering; I hold you firm;
      And when the ground I trample heaves with thunder
      I hail my end, the worm.
      And once, you said the brat was mine. Ill-fated!
      Whelped of a dastard and a dusky whore.
      Through what dives shall it crawl? Upon what floor
      Lick up perversion? Are new sins created
      That it may cry for more?
      I loved my mother once; the thought lurks ever
      Somewhere, redeeming; I am not wholly gone.
      What if my life be but the cross laid on?
      But he will find no respite, surcease never;
      All suns and sins are wan.
      There was a time when mad suns out of me
      Lighted and whirled a universe untold,
      Whose realms were henna-spiced, whose maidens bold;
      I have burned eons; there is naught to see;
      I whirl in endless cold.
      If out of time and space you have conceived
      A garden of luxurious delight
      Where I am rooted in you, and my plight
      Flowers in your laughter, still you are bereaved
      By the noxious breath of night.
      Out of your menace spring exotic blooms,
      Gnarled morbid growths and leering venomed vines,
      And you the unholy temptress that entwines
      Where flickering maudlin sunlights blotch our glooms
      And my soul pants and pines.
      And in that garden I have set a shrine
      Where I am poet, warrior, and priest,
      Know, kill, create; my senses are increased
      Beyond love's evil; passion's bread and wine
      Is my ecstatic feast.
      I watch the incense pouring through that skull,
      And those are chimneys now that once were eyes,
      And all is fetid I could ever prize,
      And a transcendant glory now is dull
      And even evil dies.
      We can forget time but by using it;
      And pleasure sizzles drearily; the clod--
      Knowing creation is the fall of God--
      Stumbles through the blindness to the heart of wit,
      And my numbed senses nod.
      Voluptuousness is circling cruelty
      Burning like heat and cold; I must live fast,
      Tasting each joy lest that joy be the last:
      A gust from the wing of imbecility
      Has warningly swept past.
      I wake anew to pangs of eager lust;
      I am enhungered for forgotten food;
      The world is straitlaced; I am frankly lewd:
      In universal horror and disgust
      I shall find solitude.

"Baudelaire to His Love" is reprinted from Poetica Erotica. Ed. T.R. Smith. New York: Crown Publishers, 1921.




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