Valentine’s Day really managed to sneak up on me this year. I’d thought about doing a number of posts celebrating our LOVE for the undead but with time running short and having had a busy work week I thought I’d bring you this single amazing post about zombie love. I was for a moment tempted to create a list, but the sad dependency on lists is one of the things that most disappoints me about a lot of the posts I see.
Kiss me, I was Irish.
The mouth is an incredible thing. On a beautiful woman it is a source of attraction and desire. It’s hard to imagine passing through young adulthood without absolutely obsessing over the first moment of a kiss. Imagining again and again what it must be like and then, afterwords, turning the memory over to be savored.
The lips, as a symbol of lust and desire, are perfection. Often the first place two lovers touch intimately. They are a symbol too, for our deep desire for food. These two primal instincts, sex and consumption, uniquely united in the mouth. It seems to me that this is part of the horror we experience at the idea of being bitten. It’s given to us in the mundane and everyday fear of bites from dogs and snakes, bugs and other critters. That’s just a normal instinctual fear we all understand and experience.
When the mundane is elevated to the dramatic in horror and fiction it is the vampire who best tilts the scale towards sex and desire. So much of the modern vampire myth brings us to the eternal kiss, the undying, never-aging, never corrupted and perfect lust of a kiss. The vampires bite is the penetration of sex, the desire fulfilled in the act.
The zombie tilts the scale in the other direction. Where the vampire is eternally beautiful, the zombie is the very incarnation of everlasting corruption. It is beauty turned filth. The mouth a gaping maw, all emotion, desire, love replaced with a different hunger. It is not the hunger of sex but of consumption. Those lips, once the abject object of desire now the source of horror. Many of the tensest moments in zombie horror involve someone being disastrously close to a zombie’s mouth. When Andrea’s sister was about to turn in the first season of the Walking Dead the sisters position was that of two people close to a kiss. And we’ve seen the fateful wedding kiss from [Rec]3.
UUUUUHhhg. That freaks me out.
With all that to ponder, I’ll leave you with this haunting but beautiful poem:
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)
By Edna St. Vincent Millay
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.