April 5, 2014

Desire & Need

One of the things that’s on my mind right now is how we aren’t ever supposed to need things. When we do, we are often shamed for it—or worse. (Certainly in America in 2014, if you need something like health care that doesn’t come from an employer, large forces are at work to to disenfranchise you.)

Or maybe that all reveals more about me and the way I was raised than it does about America! Hang in there with me.

At one point in Paris Red, the main character Victorine Meurent thinks about a loss she’s suffered in the form of a friendship that’s ended. She misses her friend, so she holds Manet’s arm a little tighter as they walk:

I hold his arm tighter against the cage of my chest.  Which he thinks is romance or desire.  Which it is in a way, but it is something much plainer, too.

Need.

But maybe those things are closer than I think, too.  Desire and need.  And not just for me.  I know what his face looks like sometimes when he is above me, moving into me.  If that is not need then I do not know what is.

There is a beauty to need.  It’s direct. It comes from the body. And as Victorine Meurent understood at seventeen, it’s closer to desire than people think.

Rilke understood. In his poem, “You See, I Want a Lot,” he writes:

What you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

(translated by Robert Bly)

Need has nakedness in it, and honesty. (It is also different from needy.) As I tried to write in my scene, need is the sister of desire.

Manet, Argenteuil, 1875

Manet, Argenteuil, 1875

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About Maureen Gibbon

Writer. Author of the novels Swimming Sweet Arrow, Thief, Paris Red.

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