christina pettersson
The Birds of Evil
graphite on paper
It is a strange thing to discover how few flowers there actually are in Charles Baudelaire's anthology, The Flowers of Evil. It turns out that all told there are only three - lilies, hyacinths, and roses, possibly four if you count 'ranunculus' (possibly referring to a buttercup, but in actual definition a genus comprised of over 400 species, not all flowering), but I would not. 101 poems, and only three measly flowers. Of these, only the rose is repeated, and repeated, and repeated. Far more common are birds, of which there are nine, or mammals, or even trees. For it turns out that the flowers Baudelaire is thrilled by are women, women who take on such endless forms of evil like "a graveyard hated by the moon". Baudelaire saw his garden personified, transformed by his pen into female creatures of every sort, but frankly, for my part, I cannot let go of the flowers. I am tormented by a desire to rebuild a more authentic flower garden of evil, that of the dewing petals and intoxicating aromas. A living garden of evil. What's more, I am so haunted by Baudelaire and his evil , that these flowers will surely bleed.

You see, I have already made the birds of evil bleed. I could not help myself,

"Ferocious birds were gathered, snatching at their food,
Raging around a hanging shape already ripe;
Each creature worked his tool, his dripping filthy beak,
Into the bleeding corners of this rottenness."

and one by one they fell about my drawing, a deadly repast of claws and feathers. The swan was the last to go, as I allowed him to mistake me for Leda for a time. But in the end I knew Baudelaire was right, the unique and supreme pleasure of making love lies in the certitude of doing evil. So I had to finish it. If The Flowers of Evil has taught me anything, it is that the idea of concord is a delusion, and that note of satisfied mutuality, that tender breast, will never ring, only the breast that is chewed and bitten, this impossible raging of desire and infinite longing. Passion was Baudelaire's sought-for hell, and now it seems to be mine.

Christina Pettersson

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