Bead’s story is one of survival, struggle, and ultimately, strength. In “I Have Taken the Line,” readers meet her bruised in her battered truck, sharing a smoke with the hitchhiker with whom she’ll seek shelter near the shores of Lake Michigan: Barn.
Already, we sense the grit that fueled her escape from an abusive home and will pull her through:
I drive like a flood busting open sluice
gates, like my whole past wants me
drowned but I’m not going down.
Oomen describes Bead as “a little rebellious and smart-ass,…with a tender side.” Throughout the collection’s absorbing narrative, we see her meet life’s rough edges unflinchingly whether she has a plan or is still weighing her options.
Imagery, dialect, and metaphor surprise too with battered pickup, gutting table, buckshot-pocked door, charred burgers, “waves big as horses’ asses,” and hunger that “burns / like old tires can’t get put out.” The deft music of Oomen’s sonic craft sings across the pages like a well-cast line arcing across wide water.
Bead’s life is one lived as close to glimpses of nature’s quiet wisdom as to the pain people inflict on one another. Consider this section of “Light Has Been Extinguished” quoted in a 2007 interview with Oomen published in Madison, Wisconsin’s The Daily Page:
I come back to the dark place,
to the scrub acres where the cabin sits,
where these cloudy nights work on me.
You know, old-timers say it’s best
to look at a sky without stars--
it will show you what you are
without any light at all.
The poem titles are based on codes from the International Code of Signals, a stylistic trait that provides another way into the collection for readers drawn to water - and another way to link poems to the curriculum. This innovative organizational structure is also another reason that un-coded woman serves as a multifaceted resource for young poets, whether studying persona poems, narrative arc, voice, or structure.