Secrets (Howard)

There is a serpent lifts his crest o' nights
And hisses in the darkness of my room.
His substance and the cloaking night are one;
His form is of the soft, thick, musky dark.
His strange eyes glimmer and his scales are loud
Yet none but I can hear—and scarcely I.
His gliding whispers shake my sluggish soul
With strange wild fires and lights of other dreams.
He loops himself about me in the dark;
I struggle with a strange, wild ecstasy
And seek, yet would not wish, to free my limbs.
Strange shudders shake my limbs at his cold touch
As coil on coil he laps my naked form.
Colder than ice he is, yet in my soul
He kindles fires more hot that Hades' breath.
With soft insidious whisper at my cheek
He lures me to the midnight's curious joys.
I rise and follow. All the land is still.
the crescent moon hangs breathless in the sky,
Whose crystal deeps are pierced with pointed stars.
Through woodlands silver black he leads me on.
Over the terraced swards where fountains dance,
Until the moon lights up a window sill.
My naked feet no hint of sound may make.
We glide together o'er the silver sill.
I hear the velvet hangings swish behind
like whisper of some crimson nightmare's wings.
My feet sink deep in rugs of silken weave
And like a ghost I bend above the bed,
A girl lies there, her sleeping lips a-smile
On soft arm pillowing the golden head.
Her tender limbs stretched out in light repose.
There is no gown to veil her symmetry.
She lies and shimmers ivory in the moon.
Those perfect, scarlet lips were made to kiss;
My arm should be about that slender waist.
But here the serpent rustles grisly scales.
And sways beside me like a fearful tree.
His whispers speak of deeper, fiercer lusts,
Of wilder joys, most terrible and strange.
That change soft dreams to nightmares red and grim.
He indicates the curves of that soft breast;
He whispers of the red wine which is blood.
He makes me feel the thrill that's born of death.
This is not earthly—from what darkened world,
What shadowed planet, what inhuman sphere
Come such wild dreams, such fearsome fantasies?
The serpent bids me stoop to that soft breast
To let the dagger kiss—with one swift thrust—
Death should be beautiful, then crouching by
Watch with quick breath and glinting eye the blood
Drain slowly from that soft, rose-tinted cheek
Until the wine has oozed from every vein
Leaving her marble white and marble cold
Like some inhuman goddess from a star.
Drained clean of all the grosser things of life.
Then raise her gently from the ruby lake
And kiss her cheeks as one who knows true sin.