The Ways I Keep

You do not understand
the ways I keep:
the sleight of my hand—
how I wind, how I creep.

Do you think I need you
to believe in me?
It’s I who must seed you
first. From my seed, your tree.

How can you understand
me, how can you find
me, unless my hand
reaches into your mind

and lights a lantern there
and does some deep mining?—
Until then, despair!
and total lack of meaning.


Stand fast

Stand fast, stand fast
in the love I give you.
Be not entangled
in the stranger’s net.
See, I forgive you!
Let this love last
and let
the moon be strangled.

I have driven away sin
I have made
you clean
I have destroyed
your fetters. Be not afraid
to begin
again. Avoid
the kiss of the unclean.

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Out of the Wound

OUT OF THE WOUND

Out of the Wound these songs well forth
Out of the night of yearning
Out of the tears of lust and wrath
Out of the endless burning.
Back to the Wound these songs will flow
Back to the heart that’s breaking
Back to the blood and tears they’ll go
Back to the endless aching.
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Let it finish

Let it finish

Let it finish, foolish lover.
Let these weeping sores heal over.
No more lusts and no more rages
No more cruel chains or cages
No more hunting in love’s jungle
No more whirling through that mangle
No more swooning moons or sighing
In Lilith’s silken meshes lying.
Write these words down in red ink:
If you can’t swim the lake you’ll sink!
If you can’t keep your cool and try
To ride your demons you will die!
If you can’t get a life again
It’s helterskelter down the drain!
Sing a new song! or plummet down
Into the Devil’s well and drown!
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Lethe (Baudelaire translation)

LETHE

Lie on my breast, you lazy beast, and lounge
There like a lovely tigress. Settle there,
You cold, cruel monster, and let me plunge
My restless fingers in your fleece of hair!
Let me descend into the scented vale
Of your long skirts, and breathe the essence of
You there: from that spent flower, let me inhale
The bittersweet remains of my dead love.
I long to sleep—to sleep and not to be!
To sink into the dream of death, and there
Scatter my carefree kisses recklessly
On your bronze-tinted flesh so young and fair.
My weeping fits, my stifled sobs and sighs,
All cease and fall to nothing in the abyss
Of your bed. In your mouth, forgetfulness
Lies, and Lethe’s lulling waters in your kiss.
I yield to fate, and take a pleasure in it.
Henceforth my doom will be my sweet delight.
A willing martyr, I shall fan this minute
These flames of lust to add to my own plight.
And I shall suck—to soothe my soul’s unrest—
Nepenthe and hemlock, bitter-tanged and tart,
From the pert rosebuds of those pointed breasts
Behind which never beat a human heart.

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Dead Lovers (Gerald de Nerval translation)

Dead lovers

Where are our lovers now?
In graveyards low they lie.
I guess they’re happy now
In lands of lullaby.
They’re with the angels now
Up in the sky so blue—
They sing the praises of
God’s holy Mother too.
O bride in shining white,
Young woman once in flower,
You lovers lost in night—
The doombell tolled your hour.
Immortal youth once shone
All flashing in your eyes.
Those flames from earth are gone—
Let them light up the skies.

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Beautiful Corpse (Baudelaire translation)

Beautiful corpse

One midnight, appalling and drear,
You will lie under your headstone:
Your beautiful corpse, my dear,
In its house of gravel and bone!

When the chaste stars languish and droop
Their eyes at the coming of dawn,
There the spider will weave his web,
There the viper will breed her spawn.

There night after night you will hear,
Like the hounds of hell in your ear,
The wolf and his harrowing howl:

There the raddled harlot will lurk
And the dirty old man will jerk
And the plotter of crimes will prowl.


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To the Precious and Beautiful (Baudelaire translation)

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To the precious and beautiful
Whose loveliness illumines me,
To my Idol, to my Angel
All praise in immortality!
She impregnates the air around
Like the wild salt tang of the sea
And in my soul she trickles down
The attar of eternity.
Sachet forever fresh and strong
Scenting the air of a loved room,
Forgotten censer burning long
Through the night in the sacred gloom.
How can I ever truly tell
What undefiled you are to me,
My grain of musk invisible,
My essence of eternity!
To the precious and beautiful—
My life, my joy, my sanity,
To my Idol, to my Angel
All praise in immortality!

Je t’adore (Baudelaire translation)

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I love you as I love the sky at night,
You brooding soul who never says a word.
Because you’re cold, denying me delight,
I love you all the more, my mockingbird!
You put a gulf between me and the blue
Heavens beyond. That’s why I reach for you!
I move in for the kill. I lust for your flesh,
As coffinworms over corpses swarm.
You gorgeous beast, I want you all the more
You crack your whip and treat me like a worm!

Wait for me, Moth

Wait for me, Moth

And why should I tell you the reason
You slipped and fell into the well?
You were sniffing the rim for poison,
You were hunting for heaven in hell.
I look out from the eyes of others
I lie hidden behind their smiles
And I roar in the wind’s wild weathers
Where the glum seas glug up their whales.
I come when you do not call me
At a time of my own choosing
When the fruit hangs ripe on the tree
And the juice from the fruit is oozing.
Wait for me, Moth, oh wait until I come—
And suck you back again into my flame!

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Lucy in the sky

Lucy in the Sky

Satan, source of these longings, set me free
From orange sunshine, hell dust, ecstasy.
But no, don’t do that . . . give me more, my friend,
Paradise white and peace at rainbow’s end.

 And let me as I lunch with Aunt Despair,
Have time to blow a stick or cork the air;
And on the razor’s edge, pushed on by pain,
Score with the golden girl or do Elaine.

 O you who mock these words but never knew
Sweet Jesus or the Beast, I envy you—
And if, at wit’s end, you should ask me what
My message is, I’d answer THOU SHALT NOT.

Don’t ask me why I’m laughing sweet and low.
I’m Lucy in the sky with diamonds now.

Night

NIGHT

I take refuge
in the joy of morning
from the night and its sadness:
from the savage
night and its yearning
under moons of madness.

I take refuge
in the peace of morning
from the night and its desires:
from the savage
lust of the burning
flesh and its fires.

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Under swooning moons of magic

UNDER SWOONING MOONS OF MAGIC

Leave me, Léthyn, let me go—
Give me wings to fly again!

This is all you need to know:

Passion always ends in pain.

In the golden summer season
When the fruit on every tree

Offered its own secret poison

You, my Léthyn, came to me.

In the Gardens of Delight
Where the pleasure river ran,

There you taught me that the night

Was made for woman and for man.

Under swooning moons of magic,
There you wrapped my raven heart

In your smiles, my dark angelic

Other Self, my counterpart.

There you taught me love must die,
There I learnt the bitter truth

That love was built upon a lie

Of beauty, and the dreams of youth.

One day you’ll bear my ancient burden
And be the broken reed I am,

And I shall sleep in the Always Garden

Like a leaf on the Tree of Time.

The Goat

Dreaming in molten meadows
when the sun honks his horn
and all the flowerwine streams
flash their diamonds and drain

the sunlight, I saw sleeping
between the sun and me
on a hill of hyacinths
a lush, a slim ladyé.

I thought I heard her breathing,
so I crept near to steal
a look at her naked breast
and finely chiseled heel.

And there I found her weeping—
ah yes, I wondered why!—

a brutish goat stood by her
gazing at her glazed eye.

He sidled to her strangely
with a sly gait and slow:
she wept so much she laughed at
herself, for weeping so.