Love and Pain, (alt. Vampire), Edvard Munch, 1893

Where Do We Meet Now, Love?

What do you fear more
The wall or the river?

I have seen words foaming up your mouth and then dying as soon as they touch the air
The air,
So heavy, so heavy
Like a wall.

What do you dream of
The wall or the river?

I have seen the tremor under your smiles
Holding the poison back from spilling over and devouring everything in its path
So hungry, so hungry
Like a river.

Where do I meet you, love?

Past the river, past the wall
There was a meadow somewhere, out there
The wall grows, the river foams up
The storm churns the world and the world screams back her pain.

Past the river, past the wall
The meadow slowly vanishes
Like a dream, receding, at the edge of a harsh dawn.

Where do we meet now, love?

The accompanying image is Love and Pain by Edvard Munch, painted in 1893. Interestingly, in later years, this painting has come to be known as Vampire. Munch himself did not use this name, and may even have disliked this particular interpretation. Yet the name stuck, and so did the interpretation. This little story tells me all sorts of interesting things about how art transforms in each viewer’s eye, and what layers of the unconscious it can tap, about the nature of narrative and control in a fleeting world, and also, of course, how gendered expectations play a role in everything we see. It also speaks about love, and pain, specifically the unique plain where the two often meet.

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