Remember, my soul, the thing we saw

That soft summer morning:

At the turn in the path, upon a bed of scattered stones,

A carcass lying raw.

Like a woman in lust with its legs in the air

Burning and sweating poison,

It opened, with nonchalant and cynical flair,

Its effluvium-swollen stomach.

The sun beamed on its decay

As if to cook it medium-well,

So Mother Nature would be a hundred times repaid

For the whole she’d put together.

And the sky watched the superb carcass

Unfurl like a bloom.

The stench was so strong that on the grass

You nearly retched and swooned.

Flies buzzed over this putrid lap

That birthed a black battalion

Of larvae, oozing like thick liquid

Over its still living scraps.

All this loveliness fell and lifted like a wave,

Cresting with a crackle;

It seemed the body, bloated with vague breath,

Was multiplying itself to cheat its death.

This world made strange music,

Like the wind or water churning, restive

Or the whisk of wheat slipping from the chaff,

Shaken by a field hand turning his sieve.

These forms dispersed and were nothing more than a dream,

A rough sketch slow to grace

The forgotten canvas that the artist paints

Only by memory of what he has seen.

An anxious bitch behind the rocks

Watched us with an angry eye,

Eager for her chance to snatch from the skeleton

The piece of him she’d dropped.

And yet one day you will look like this filth,

This horrible infection,

Star of my eyes, sun of my self,

You, my angel and my passion!

Yes! so you will, O queen of grace,

After the last sacraments

Go under the greasy blooms and grass

To molder among the bones.

So, my beauty! tell the worms

When they devour you with their slow kiss

That I kept at least the form and spirit

Of my rotted bliss!

—Charles Baudelaire

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