Love, the Killer
By Erin Palm
We have all heard the sayings about love. We’ve heard that falling in love is the greatest thing ever, that love can heal all wounds, and that nothing can kill love. But the other side of love, the side you don’t usually hear about, is how love kills and destroys things. Poet Linda Gregg seems to know of the disappointment, despair, and loneliness that comes when love overpowers you and leaves you in the dust. From many poems and stories, we see that love is a surveyor, but what of love’s other side, the killer that love can be? Gregg has readers ask, how is love a killer?
Love can bring you up and give you a life to live, but it can also tear you to ruins. Gregg tells us of a house in ruins after the departure of love in the poem “Silence and Glare.” She inspects this adobe house made of mud and straw. It’s falling apart even though “A house / made of mud and straw otherwise can last / for centuries,” (p.33, 5-7). She sees bees coming in and out, plaster falling, uncovered windows, and dirt floors. She states this house is “A place to be now that love is gone,” (p.33, 16). In stating this, she means that this abandon, decrepit house is perfect for someone who is falling apart for love is no longer in her life. Love was the key element for both the speaker of the poem and also the house. Love was essentially the glue keeping them together, but now love is gone and the house and speaker are falling apart.
Love is the most powerful force on Earth. For Gregg this is an understatement. Love is powerful enough to kill. It’s so powerful that even the Gods can’t stop it. This is clearly stated in Gregg’s poem, “Even if the Gods look Down.” Gregg starts the poem off with the lines “Hawks are flying slow high above / the barren ground where love / used to be” (p.4, 1-3) These hawks are an indication of something dead, love in this case. The fallowing lines “The heavy salmon / are dying as they struggle with the last / of their strength in the shallows / to get home.”
(p.4, 3-6), show how the salmon are dying from trying to swim through shallow waters to their homes. Their homes are what they love, so in a way they are dying for love.
The next line “Even if there were gods / what could they do about love” (p.4, 6-7), hints at how love is too powerful to stop. That love is the ultimate force to be reckoned with. Love can kill you, love can give you strength, and love can keep you alive. Gregg states that love is so powerful, that if there were any gods, they would not be able to stop it. It will either help us or it will destroy us.
In the final lines of “Even if the Gods Look Down”, Gregg goes on to talk about how tender and loving the heart is. The heart is beautiful and full of life, yet it can be “slayed” (p.4, 9), meaning the heart can be hurt, slayed, or killed by love. She compares the heart to a deer. A deer is beautiful, free, full of life, yet often it is “killed and eaten” (p.4, 11), for the love of it meat or in this poem, it’s liver. Gregg says that love will kill for whatever it wants, and then it will leave you to rot or bleed out, much like how the deer is killed for its liver and then “hung outside to bleed” (p.4, 13).
Since love is such a harsh killer, it’s hard to survive the hits and blows we get from it. In two different poems of Gregg’s, she tells the reader of how damaging love is and how hard it is to get over the pain it causes. In the poem “They Cripple with Beauty and Butcher with Love,” Gregg states that love causes pain with the line “If the man lied about love / or even if it was true, there was immense pain,” (p.35, 7-8). As a whole the poem talks about getting over the pain of love, about forgetting the one you loved, and about starting over “At the beginning where / love ends,” (p.35, 9-10). For the other poem, “Surviving Love,” Gregg spends the day walking outside and praising life, yet at the end of the day she states it’s hard to get over love, “Back in the house, I lie down in the heat / for a nap, realizing forgiveness is hard / for the wounded,” (p.57, 12-14). For whatever reason love has left and abandoned someone, it will always be hard and challenging to return to normal life and get over it.
Love can heal you, bring you to life, make your world beautiful and worth living. On the other hand though, love can ruin you, leave you in pieces, make the world ugly and unforgiving, but most importantly love can kill you. This is why Gregg writes of love's power and unstoppable ways. She praises those who fall in love, but warns them of the aftermath. Gregg states that love can make you do things, can tear you apart, and can hurt you permanently. She turns the tables on love, showing the killer that lurks inside.