Home > Words of Power > Self-Portrait as Dryad, No. 7

Self-Portrait as Dryad, No. 7

December 16, 2009

by Marly Youmans

The golden haze around these whips of limbs
Is glistening, awakening to light
Within retreating clouds — embattled fire
That melts the snow and pellmell sends the sky
To run in ditches near the highway’s edge.

My God, I am no witch to suffer so —
Who tied me to this stake that frosts my skin?
Who makes me tremble with his solar heat?
Who takes my voice and shakes the syllables
Until I speak in otherworldly tongues?

Dear Christ, the world is aching in its grave,
And can I bear another spring-time thaw?
O Willow, Willow, I uncurl to let
The bite and simmer of this raking gold
Explode in leaves — green eyes that weep for me,
My harrowed hell, my star-enkindled tree.

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Marly Youmans (website, blog) recently saw the publication of her seventh book, Val/Orson. Set among the tree sitters of California’s redwoods, the story takes its inspiration from the legendary tale of Valentine and Orson and the forest romances of Shakespeare. Her previous books include Ingledove; Claire; The Curse of the Raven Mocker; The Wolf Pit; Catherwood; and Little Jordan. She co-edited qarrtsiluni’s Insecta issue with Ivy Alvarez.

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  1. December 16, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Beautiful and particularly effective read aloud because of the lovely and subtle form.

  2. Paul Digby
    December 17, 2009 at 10:25 am

    A beautifully passionate poem – and read beautifully and passionately.
    Very rich indeed!

  3. zephyr
    December 17, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Ahhhhh…exquisite Marly’s poem and voice!

  4. December 17, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Read with the tenderness of a blade of grass blowing in the first wind after winter’s last thaw. It is my prayer that Marly’s voice like Shakespeares will be frozen in Time forevermore!

  5. December 17, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    How pleasant to come back from a long day’s haul to the airport and back and find lovely notes here and there–thanks for listening and reading, all!

  6. Deborah
    December 19, 2009 at 12:08 am

    It is good to think, as the winter freeze captures and entwines us today, that a spring-time thaw is coming to redeem us from this cold grave. Thank you, Marly.

  7. December 26, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Powerful voice and imagery, Marly.

  8. December 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks, Deborah and Laura! I’m glad people still have time for a read, even on Boxing Day…

  9. susanna
    December 28, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    wow! Marly,

    That was just fabulous. YOur voice is so light and sweet…really a beautiful poem. I particularly love the way you did the line “The bite and simmer of this raking gold”

  10. December 28, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Thank you, and I’m glad you liked it–my first recording ever for the Bonta & Adams team was made on a tiny Pokemon microphone from a child’s game, and I bought a proper one for this one, but evidently there was something amiss with it. The technologically-savvy Dave saved it somehow. I shall never know how, of course. I shall stick with the Pikachu microphone next time!

  11. January 2, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    To be a tree would be beautiful indeed, I would not weep. There is nothing more teaching of mortality and the cycles of life than a tree.

  12. January 2, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Looked at your web site and see, indeed, how much you like trees! And thanks for finding one of my dryads…

  13. elizabeth spencer
    January 3, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    You flourish as a dryad, Marly

  14. January 3, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Elizabeth! I am surprised, and I am honored…

  15. January 4, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Marly, you are the BUSINESS when you get down to work! Always such a pleasure to read your poems, especially aloud. And no matter what complexities of form they take, and no matter how simple or complex, your poems are invariably easy to memorise… ever the bonus for me as I like to recite poetry to myself on walks… because they are so beautifully constructed. Brava!

  16. January 4, 2010 at 9:55 am

    It is quite a kick to imagine Clive Hicks-Jenkins-who-doesn’t-know-how-to-spell-his-name walking around a meadow in Wales, reciting one of my poems! Nothing like having an ex-theatre man rolling out the syllables…

    And if you’re not Clive Hicks-Jenkins and are reading this, be sure and go see his paintings at http://hicks-jenkins.com. (You’ll also find some poems by me and “qarrtsiluni” co-editor Dave Bonta (including a picture of the man for the curious) and other poets.)

  17. January 4, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Oops, double parentheses. Bad! But at least I spelled my name right!

  18. January 4, 2010 at 11:02 am

    How did THAT happen? I think it was generated automatically and so I’m blaming the computer. That said, under normal circumstances I’d undoubtedly be more likely to mis-spell my own name than a computer would be! Ho hum.

    It’s true that I had to press quite hard to get Dave to yield a photograph. I have no idea why as he looks very fine in it. Moreover it’s clearly unleashed something in him, because there have subsequently been TWO included on his ‘Workspace’ post. See here:


    • January 4, 2010 at 11:17 am

      I’m not camera shy, I just tend to prefer the focus to be on the work rather than the personality. (That’s also why, for example, we resisted including author bios with the posts here at qarrtsiluni for so long.)

      • January 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm


        Laudable, yes… But who wouldn’t want a glimpse of the Bontasaurus?


        Always blame the computer! We know you know how to spell your name. Stuck in those extra parentheses, didn’t it?

      • January 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm

        My apologies Dave. I attributed my own feelings to you, a classic mistake.

        I am notoriously camera shy. It was not always so, but as I’ve got older I’ve become bothered by the fact that cameras catch a sadness in me I don’t much like, so I turn away when I hear the shutter click. Only one photograph on my site, and that rather regretted.

        I’m glad there are biographies here. I like to know about the people whose talents I admire.

        • January 4, 2010 at 11:18 pm

          Wow, I didn’t know that about you! Interesting. One of my best IRL friends is also very averse to being photographed — a particular shame since she’s highly photogenic.

          We’ve had bios for about three years, but up until this issue we saved them for a “Notes on Contributors” post at the end of the issue. As the issues lengthened, this became a less viable model.

        • mym
          January 6, 2010 at 9:37 am

          I like the wheelbarrow picture, Clive! XD

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