I was still in high school when I found a copy of “Magazine of Horror” #19, the January 1968 issue. I had read some of Howard’s poetry by then, but mostly as headers in the fiction, and a few from comics, and an old Arkham anthology I found in a library, Fire and Sleet and Candlelight.
I remember how shocked I was by the clear-cut suicidal statement it was.
Better the silence and the long black rest;
Better the grey grass growing through my brain —
Better the shot, the fall, the growing stain,
Then one long blindness, shot with crimson pain
Howard speaks of black agony, iron thorns and womwood, gall and vemon, coming years that are long and gloomy black, and finishes with the thought “Even such brains as mine may crash to dust.”
The entire poem can be found on pages 412-3 of The Collected Poetry.
Later I would encounter other Howard poems in a similar light, like “The Tempter” in one of Dennis McHaney’s fanzines, and the two from Skull Face Omnibus, but none will ever succeed in shocking me as that first encounter with Howard’s death-wish expressions did. And to top it off, editor R.A.W.Lowndes used a spot illo from “Weird Tales” of Death on a horse riding a dusty trail to illustrate it. How spot on, as the British say.