The woman, meanwhile, from her strawberry mouth—
Twisting and turning like a snake on coals,
And kneading her breasts against her corset-stays—
Let flow these words, all interfused with musk:
“My lips are moist; and I know how to make
A man forget all conscience deep in bed.
I dry all tears on my triumphant breasts
And set old men to laughing like young boys.
For those who see me naked and unveiled,
I take the place of sun, and moon, and stars!
I am, dear scholar, so well schooled in pleasure
That when I smoother a man in my smooth arms
Or when I abandon to his teeth my bosom—
Shy and voluptuous, tender and robust —
Upon these cushions groaning with delight,
The impotent angels would damn themselves for me!”
When she had sucked the marrow from my bones,
And, languidly, I turned toward her intending
A love-kiss in return, I saw there only
A sort of leathery wineskin filled with puss!
I shut my eyes in a cold fright, and when
I opened them again to the good day,
Beside me lay no mannequin whose power
Seemed to have come from drinking human blood:
There trembled a confusion of old bones
Which creaked in turning like a weathervane,
Or like a signboard on an iron pole
Swung by the wind through the long winter nights.
Charles Baudelaire was one of the most influential of all French poets and is best known for his notorious collection Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil). He is sometimes called the first modern poet. In addition to his poetry, he wrote a novella, essays, art criticism, and notable translations of Edgar Allan Poe into French.
Donald Justice was the author of numerous books and the recipient of many grants and prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize for his Selected Poems (1979).