The Beds

Martha Rhodes
Martha Rhodes. Autumn House (www.autumnhouse.org), $14.95 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-932870-53-4
Reviewed on: 11/28/2011
Release date: 01/01/2012
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Delivered with a disarming nonchalance, the poems of Rhodes’s fourth collection lock eyes with grief—at the dissolution of a marriage, the loss of a mind, the deaths of parents—and refuse to blink. “Easy to write hers. Loving Mother of Me,” says one poem’s speaker of the task of picking an inscription for her parents’ gravestones, “But for him—what? beyond his name/ and dates.” This kind of starkness, this quiet harshness, pushes poem after poem into a region somewhere far past conversation, but just before the place where there are no words. Caregiving is torture (“I brought to him the cups of tea/ he smashes across the room./ I brought to him the honey spoons/ he pasted on the wall”), while “Misery” (the title of one poem) is manifest everywhere because “I’ve died, or because you’ve broken/ your favorite wine glass, or lost your passport,/ or because you yourself are ill.” All of this pain is wound around a dark music, in which repetition must suffice for comfort, especially in a series of short, haunting nursery rhyme-like poems utilizing repeated lines: “I’m scared of frogs./ No Bermuda for me, nor ponds./ I’m scared of frogs./ They’re ugly. And creep up from bogs.” All beginnings in this book are merely preludes to endings, such as the new bed, “first purchase of my new life,” also the place “from which my soul may eventually, balloon-like, lift its string/ dangling from the ginkgo across the street while the rest/ of me is en route to my family’s welcoming plot in Sharon.” (Jan.)
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