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The Beds


Martha Rhodes

January 2012

Aimee Nicole

In 2012, Martha Rhodes will come out with her fourth collection of poetry, titled The Beds.

In 2012, Martha Rhodes will come out with her fourth collection of poetry, titled The Beds.

The book is divided into three parts, with various themes and images threaded through each section. They tell a story full of anger and pain. An unhappy marriage detailed by betrayal and resentment propels the reader forward. It is not until the last section that the narrator experiences honesty of self and some form of personal growth.

The most anger comes through in the first section of the collection. The narrator misses her husband while he is living in the same house; the two are strangers with such a great divide between them that there is no way to bridge the gap. In her poem “It Fell on Me,” the narrator admits that:

It was never my ambition
to be the good daughter.
Was, though, to be

my husband’s good wife.
And now, he’s silent too—
and the western reaches of the bed,
his side, stay light, and a fault line
divides our small plot.

Instead of finding that bridge, the narrator resorts to hating her husband. She details taking care of him through a concussion, shortly followed by the admission that he cannot go to hell soon enough. She resents him for not appreciating her and not paying her close (or any) attention.

The second part of the book considers the end of the relationship; the narrator admits to stealing his field (a theme that runs throughout the section). In one sad poem, “Sex,” the narrator is wishing for slow sex and detailing the anticipation leading up to their encounter; however, the last lines are focused on her wondering whether or not this was their last time. This section is more contemplative than the last:

I’m merely
passing through, to visit
someone, though I am not
quite sure who, actually, and if
I am to say hello, or goodbye—

She struggles to figure out her place in the relationship, but is beginning to move forward. The last poem in the section is titled “True Hope,” which reaffirms the big shift from the previous section.

In the third part of the collection, the poem “New Bed” dives into the narrator’s new life. Rhodes writes that it is “my new launch pad, from which my soul / may eventually, balloon-like, lift, its string / dangling from the ginkgo across the street.” The strong imagery lets the reader feel the emotional impact of the narrator’s choices, as they lead her to a new and improved life (and a healthy one at that). Rather than focusing so much on her relationship with her husband, the narrator brings her family into the mix:

the jade, actually, our mother’s—
what she last bought the eve she lost

all memory of what it is to buy something,
to recognize what it is you want, to point

to it and say, That should be mine now.
And then it is.

Sometimes, we forget to take care of ourselves first and spend too much time trying to improve the lives of others. By the end, the narrator is finally beginning to see what is important and is aspiring to obtain what she wants. Though the collection is raw and negative to start, Rhodes takes us full circle in the grieving process and lifts us up with hope at the close.

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