The Scream, 1893 by Edvard Munch – A Poem by Rowe Williams

A vaguely human face stares at me from computer-screen rendered cardboard. It’s intentionally unsettling, asymmetric eyes and snake nostrils, seemingly dislocated jaw. Limbs ending pointily, rather than handily. But you can still see its humanity, radiating from that terrified expression.

It necessitates the question why? Why has this quasi-human figure been inspired to scream? Boats float peacefully in the distance, delicate inhabitants of a nearby lake. Other dark quasi-human figures walk casually on the boardwalk a few feet away, unsure if they’re coming or going, perhaps talking of Michaelangelo.

Then, a horrified screech emerges from the subject’s mouth. The moment in time where no one else has had time to respond is captured in what Google tells me is oil, tempera, and pastel. There is a fear, greater than that of disturbing a peaceful scene.

Is Edvard screaming at himself? So uncertain about who he is, that he creates someone to scream it at him? Or perhaps he screams at the world, in one breath declaring both “I am here!” and “I am scared,” presumably also of here. Perhaps he is screaming at us, voyeurs into this little world where we peer through a window and we are the quasi-human.

Sometimes, I almost understand, or empathize with, our subject. I open my mouth to scream – but kill the sound before it escapes my throat, and appear to be gaping at something. I fear disturbing a peaceful scene.

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