Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
Baudelaire to His Love
By Joseph T. Shipley (1893–1988)

LUXURIOUS 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.        5
  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.        10
  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!        15
  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!        20
  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 straight abysmal tomb.        25
  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.        30
  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.        35
  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?        40
  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.        45
  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.        50
  If out of time and space you have conceived
A garden of luxuriant delight
Where I am rooted in you, and my plight
Flowers in your laughter, still you are bereaved
By the noxious breath of night.        55
  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.        60
  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.        65
  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 transcendent glory now is dull
And even evil dies.        70
  We can forget time but by using it;
And pleasure sizzles drearily; the clod—
Knowing creation is the fall of God—
Stumbles through blindness to the heart of wit,
And my numbed senses nod.        75
  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.        80
  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.        85

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