Written Commentary - One Flesh
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This poem is, as suggested by the title 'one flesh', about marriage. One flesh is a reference to marriage in the bible, where two become one. The poem is written in a first person point of view, with the poet writing about her parent's marriage. The first line of the poem gives us a feel that the poet's parents have grown physically apart, as 'lying apart now, each in a separate bed' suggests. However, the phrase 'lying apart now' tells us that the poet's parents did not use to be so far apart and were once close to each other. The following lines tell us what the poet's parents are doing (He with a book, keeping the light on late, she like a girl dreaming of childhood). This shows they both do not seem to notice the other party's presence around them and are engaged in their own activity. The poet's mother is dreaming about childhood where all men are elsewhere, suggesting that she does not care about physical relationships any longer.
The poet's parents 'hardly ever touch', showing the absence of a physical relationship between the two, which supports the first stanza which states that they lie apart in separate beds. However, the poet describes them touching each other as being a confession of having too little feeling or too much (it is like a confession of having little feeling - or too much). This tell us that if they were to touch it would mean they are inclined towards having too little feeling or too much. Chastity faces the poet's parents (chastity faces them), and the author describes it as 'a destination for which their whole lives were a preparation'. This could mean that a couple's marriage and life together is a preparation for chastity, perhaps not a bad thing but a escalated relationship going to a whole new level above a physical relationship, or perhaps chastity is the new event they have been waiting for. In the third stanza, the poet says her parents are 'strangely apart, yet strangely close together'.
The poet's use of imagery in the poem greatly helps to illustrate the poet's parents' relationship. For example, the phrase 'tossed up like flotsam' shows us that the poet's parents' former passionate relationship was thrown away within a short period of time and regarded as nothing important (as flotsams are not important as they are just pieces of wood). The poem, though about marriage, has none of the warmth of being married, thus the setting gives the reader the impression that the relationship being portrayed here is not a well developed one, however the poet uses this to draw attention to the strong mental relationship her parents have. The poet has written the poem in three stanzas with each stanza depicting each revelation of her parents' relationship. In stanza one, her parents are lying apart in separate beds. In stanza two, her parents are awaiting chastity. In stanza three, the poet realizes that her parents have a strong mental relationship. If the poet's message in the poem was to tell us about how marriage is not only about the physical body but the mind and soul as well, he has conveyed the meaning of the poem very successfully.
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