The Jewels

This poem is an adaptation (rather than a translation) of one of Charles Baudelaire’s banned poems, “Les Bijoux/The Jewels,” in which he describes his Haitian mistress wearing only her jewelry. I wanted to include the voices of both lovers which are indicated here in different typefaces. I also wanted to reflect on how desire sometimes prevents us from seeing our lovers as full people. Finally, I wanted to consider whether the power relations we often assume are simple, with one of the parties in a dominant role, might in fact be more complex.

“Leave it on”

he said behind me. I left the necklace
“all of it” our eyes met in the mirror
“it’s your regalia” he held me
bangles jangled on my arms
lips nuzzled my neck
around the long earrings
“or your armor” he smiled
my bare skin brushed his clothes
the ankle bracelets jingled
as I turned in his arms
“or my shackles?” I smiled
we kissed

I slake his synesthete’s lust
with flesh metal stone
mingling of light sound taste touch

I cannot see her
except in flashes
arm leg small of back
belly neck breast hair

I do not know her
lewd and shy
coquette and whore-entrepreneur
striking poses sure to rouse me
my dark angel

The fire’s low now
In the darkness
As I recline
He kneels
His sweet, deep love
Now reaches
For me
Through his tongue

As the embers flare
It courses
Through my body
Wave on wave

Kimberly Gladman Jackson is the author of Materfamilias (Tandeta Books, 2018) and Tesseract (Finishing Line Press, 2016).
You can connect with her on her website.

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