Breaking the Code


Un-Coded Woman is not quite a love-story, yet there is a subtle romance in Anne-Marie Oomen's words. The alliterations and symbolism she uses seem to be a practiced art. Oomen sets us sailing through rich images that delight our senses. Lake Michigan is the ocean and the northern wilderness it's shore. Life isn't a beach-y resort, but hard work and bitter seasons. The use of maritime codes is unique, but the actual feel of the book is less nautical and more earthy and elemental.

These are what I use for meaning:
distresses between vessels,
Ciphered glances over a shot of scotch,
cool curve of his arm in sleep;
How I speak when speech is shaped
by weather, groceries, short distances
I have learned that love makes words
with storm, water, even fists”
-pg 65

We see life through the eyes of Beatrice or 'Bead' for short. Bead is building a home with Barn, a guy she picked up hitch-hiking, her Native American boyfriend turned husband. As unsteady as her name and as wild as the sea, Bead is on the run from an abusive upbringing. We get glimpses of Bead's past as she connects with nature.

And still she meets that current
like it meant something to break herself
on that slime-curdled cement.
And I, because I can't read her marks
to call her by her river name,
call her by my own.”
-pg 63

There is a patient strain of hardship in Oomen's words and Midwest living is soaked into the pages. Old prejudices on fishing rights are found into conversation, and even though Barn is not exactly liked for his ancestry, he is still part of the community and Bead takes on the role of wife. Gutting a fish, fresh cuts from a road-kill deer, ice fishing, and spring floods are all the fabric of Bead's new life. She learns to forget her brutal past and finds beauty in simple living, and luxury in potluck jello.

Even with the poaching
herd's too big, deer run like they meant to,
right in front of our trucks,
leaving our brains, if we got any left,
to remember other things
that come too quick out of the dark”
-pg 18 and 19

This book of poetry is about Bead’s journey of self-discovery, but is also the journey of the reader. The poems fit nicely together to tell a story, yet each piece stands on its own. Exquisitely moving, Un-Coded Woman portrays life's sadness in an honest and insightful manner. Let Oomen choose whatever codes she wants, if the end result is this good.

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