Music and poetry are one and the same. They both possess intense emotions and allow the reader/listener to gain perspective on an experience whether they have directly experienced it or not. No one knows this better than Taylor Swift. The twelfth track on her third, and only completely self-written, studio album, “Haunted” encompasses a full range of heartbreak and yearning for a person who has left without warning or explanation.
You and I walk a fragile line
I have known it all this time
But I never thought I’d live to see it break.
Swift begins her song with these three lines, where she articulates that this woman’s relationship with this person has been on the verge of ending for quite a long time, however, she was in denial of it ever actually happening. She truly believed she would outlive the end of the relationship, although the outcome was inevitable.
And it’s coming over you like it’s all a big mistake
Oh, I’m holding my breath
Won’t lose you again
At this point in the song, the woman thinks that the man understands that he has made a mistake, and she is reluctant to do anything, (even breathe), lest she risk him leaving again, and it being her fault, even though he is already gone. Here, the listener can feel the pain, anxiety, and blame that the woman is afflicted by, believing that it is her fault he left even though no one actually knows why he left her, or why the relationship ended.
Come on, come on, don’t leave me like this
Here, Swift adds another reference to the 7 stages of grief, this time bargaining. This woman is essentially begging the man to remain in the relationship with her, despite him already being gone.
Can’t breathe whenever you’re gone
Can’t turn back now, I’m haunted
Here the reader can see that the woman has been emotionally dependent on him. As the theme of breathing returns, she panics without him, unable to do something as simple as taking a deep breath to calm herself in the face of turmoil. She is unable to take control. The fact that she feels “haunted” alludes to the ghosts of their past relationship and the grief she feels as the result of its death. She is always reminded of it, unable to let go of the intense feelings of loss and betrayal she has experienced.
He will try to take away my pain
And he just might make me smile
But the whole time I’m wishing he was you instead
She has made an honest attempt to get over this past relationship, filling the void in her heart with a new man, but she is unsuccessful, most likely due to the emotional baggage brought on by the unexpected end to their relationship and the lack of closure she received as a direct result. This past relationship is now impacting her current relationships, although he is still gone, and will not be returning, no matter how badly she wants him to.
Towards the end of the song, she states,
Won’t finish what you started
I believe this could be alluding to the fact that she is unwilling to finish a variety of things, including the breakup, the relationship, and possibly the version of herself that she was with him. We, as listeners, are able to view the full spectrum of her pain and lack of acceptance throughout the song.
You and I walk a fragile line
I have known it all this time. Never ever thought I’d see it break
Never thought I’d see it
These final lines directly relate back to the first few lines of the song but offer a new perspective. This woman is finally giving up on getting back in the previous relationship. She is at a complete loss for words and the damage and hurt that has been inflicted upon her is irreversible.