Elizabeth Jennings talks in her poem “One Flesh” about her parents’ separation from child’s view by showing us how they are growing apart through different words and rhymes.Jennings’ poem “One Flesh” is a personal poem that has been written in 3rd person from the child’s view. The poem has 3 stanzas, each having a sestet. The theme of the poem is separation and relationships.
The atmosphere and the tone of the poem is sad and empty. The title “One Flesh” can have two meanings; one it can have religious connotations since they have become one flesh when they are joined in marriage or their kid can be their one flesh. The whole poem is about how passionate marriage becomes to the stage of separation. In the poem speaker reflects on the relationship of her parents that still live together but do not love each other anymore.
In the first stanza Jennings talks about how her parents’ marriage has become to them avoiding each other and how there is no communication between them. The first line of the poem reflects to their separation by saying “Lying apart now, each in a separate bed”. We can also see how they are not communicating with each other from the words “she like a girl dreaming of childhood” from the second line and in the fifth line “the book he holds unread”. We can see from these lines how the woman is dreaming of her childhood which means that she wants to return to a happier time of her life meanwhile the man pretends to read a book to avoid communicating with the woman. The last line of the first stanza says “Her eyes fixed on the shadows overhead”, the shadows overhead is their future and unhappy years to spend together. The second stanza gives insight into the woman’s and man’s personal feelings about their relationship and how they feel that their relationship isn’t moving into a positive direction. It also shows us the physical separation of the couple.
In the first line “Tossed up like flotsam from a former passion” tells how the relationship that was once loving has now broken down and they have no control over it. In this line Jennings also uses a word called flotsam what means wreckage indicating what their relationship has become or the remains of what their relationship is. “From a former passion” showing how they once had a loving relationship. In the second line the poet says “They hardly ever touch”, which shows how their relationship has become to them not feeling anything for each other and how they are separate since they do not even touch each other anymore. “Or if they do it is like a confession” says the third line, in which confession is in many religions the acknowledgement of someone. So this line might show us that if they do touch which they hardly ever do is because of confession. In the fourth line Jennings says “Chastity faces them”, where chastity is physical separation, so the poet is telling us about their physical separation.
The last line of the stanza “For which their whole lives were a preparation”, tells how they were preparing for their whole life to have a loving relationship. The third stanza Jennings reflects more of her parents’ separation. She starts by saying in the first line “Strangely apart, yet strangely close together” she repeats strangely two times in one line. It can be that since the poem is written from the child’s view she is finding it strange and weird how her parents are living in the same house or sitting next to each other, but she sees that something is missing since it also looks like they are apart or not together anymore. In the second line she mentions a word ” a thread” and in the third line ” a feather” this reflects how their marriage is now delicate and vulnerable.
In the fifth line Jennings says “These two who are my father and my mother” is kind of a important line since she is not saying my parents, because they are now two separate people. In the last line of the third stanza Jennings uses words fire and cold. Fire is often used to show passion and cold is used to show silence and loneliness. So she is saying that the marriage has now grown from fire to cold which means that the passion has died out. In the third stanza the rhyme scheme is irregular from the previous two stanzas where the two last lines rhymed, but do not in the last stanza, which reflects the separation of the couple and the broken relationship. To take it all together we see in Jennings poem “One Flesh” how two people who are her parents have fell out of love and are on the stage of separation. In these three stanzas we see how they are separating themselves from each other and how their marriage is falling apart and does not have the love they once had in it. Jennings uses a lot of words to tell and describe about her parents’ separation, she also uses rhymes to show their current broken relationship.