One Flesh


The poem “One Flesh” talks about the marriage of an elderly couple, as seen through the eyes of the speaker, their daughter. Though initially strong, the relationship has, over time, seemingly stagnated and broken down.

The title of the poem, “One Flesh”, serves as an allusion to the bible verse in Genesis 2:24, “therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they shall become one flesh”. This thus allows the reader to immediately discern the theme of this poem, that is, marriage.

“Lying apart now, each in a separate bed.” This line introduces us to the apparent distance between the couple, that they sleep separately, which is abnormal for married couples, as sleeping in the same bed is seen as an expression of love and physical intimacy. This could also be seen as a reference to the physical separation and isolation of the two, that they are not together as would be expected, but rather apart physically.

The next line, “he with a book…she like a child dreaming of childhood” further emphasizes this point, as they are engaged in separate activities. The bedroom is often the place where physical intimacy is expressed most clearly and the heat of passion reaches its peak in sexual intercourse, yet both of these activities are also sedate and exclusive, mirroring their relationship. This also serves to show that the two share little in common and are too wrapped up in themselves – in his case, his book, and in hers, her memories, to reach out and engage the other half in any common activity, as a typical married couple would. “Her eyes fixed on the shadows overhead” also reinforces the sedate nature of their activities, as the shadows appear to be stationary, a reference to the static nature of their relationship, as observed by the speaker.

The second stanza begins with the line “Tossed up like flotsam from a former passion”, a metaphor which...