Home > Worship > “I Heard Their Wings Like the Sound of Many Waters”

“I Heard Their Wings Like the Sound of Many Waters”

November 16, 2011

by Marly Youmans

In the dark, in the deeps of the night that are
Crevasses of a sea, I heard their wings.
I heard the trickling of tiny feathers
With their hairs out like milkweed parachutes
Floating idly on the summer air,
I heard the curl and splash, the thunderbolts
Of pinions, the rapids and rattle of shafts—
Heard Niagara sweep the barreled woman
And shove her under water for three days,
I heard a jar of fragrance spill its waves
As a lone figure poured out all she could,
Heard the sky’s bronze-colored raindrops scatter
On corrugated roofs and tops of wells,
I heard the water-devil whirligigs,
I heard an awesome silence when the wings
Held still, upright as flowers in a vase,
And when I turned to see why they had stilled,
Then what I saw was likenesses to star
Imprisoned in a form of marble flesh,
With a face like lightning-fires and aura
Trembling like a rainbow on the shoulders,
But all the else I saw was unlikeness
That bent me like a bow until my brow
Was pressed against the minerals of earth,
And when I gasped at air, I tasted gold.

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Marly Youmans (website, blog) is a poet and novelist from the Carolinas, currently living in Cooperstown, New York. A collection of poems entitled The Throne of Psyche (Mercer University Press, 2011) is her eighth and newest book, and she hopes that if you like this poem, you’ll want to have a copy and read more. Forthcoming are five other books, including two books of poetry: Thaliad, a book-length poem forthcoming from Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal; and The Foliate Head, forthcoming from Stanza Press (U.K.).

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  1. November 16, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    This is magical, wonderful, visually rich and terrifying… very Marly!

  2. November 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Paul Digby tells me the note is confusing because this poem is not actually in “The Throne of Psyche,” and he felt that the note suggests inclusion.


    “I Heard Their Wings Like the Sound of Many Waters” will be in the book from Stanza Press in the UK, “The Foliate Head.” And it will be a very lovely book because Clive Hicks-Jenkins is providing three leafy heads for the division pages plus the cover.

  3. Paul Digby
    November 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    I was searching my copy of, “The Throne of Psyche” in order to place aside and read more.
    I just….. searched and searched! I am just relieved that I do, in fact, have a complete version of that beautiful edition!
    And now await, “The Foliate Head” with anticipation and appetite whetted!

  4. November 16, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    I immediately picture some fascinating visuals alongside this—wonderful poem.

  5. November 17, 2011 at 4:31 am

    Yet more inspiration for me… as if any were needed… for that Foliate Head cover!

  6. November 17, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Hi Marja-Leena, Paul, Hannah, and Clive–

    And thanks! I’m especially glad to be terrifying this morning (after chasing my dog all over the village.)

  7. Katherine
    November 17, 2011 at 9:55 am

    So lush and terribly lovely!

  8. Sheila Squillante
    November 17, 2011 at 12:33 pm


  9. November 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks, Katherine and Sheila–

    I’ve gotten quite a few notes about “terrible beauty.” Glad it came off that way… I think my favorite suggestion so far is Beth Adams saying I ought to write a new Book of Revelation. Of course, one has to have the revelation first!

  10. November 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    What a richly magical poem! I love how reality skids any which way, back and forth from worlds both known and unknown, dreamt of and unremembered, the kind of reality I wish I could hold on to forever! Thanks for pursuing your talent and enriching us.

    I’ve read that you draw some breath from the Susquehanna. I love the vastness of horizons on that river, which we used to cross when we once lived in Baltimore to go to New York. Lucky you! And thanks again for your poetry.

    • November 30, 2011 at 10:51 pm

      Alegria, thank you! I am glad you saw it that way…

      I do live very close to the mouth of the Susquehanna and see it every day, with the lake above it (sometimes frozen, which is tough on a Southerner) and Kingfisher tower–those two I can see from my writing room. They are rather magical and sometimes seep into my writing. Of course, Cooperstown is one of those peculiar places where over the years what is fiction and what is “real” have become confused. I like that, as it is sometimes funny, sometimes fantastic, sometimes just plain quirky.

  11. Barbara LaMorticella
    December 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Lost in the music of this, I needed to listen. And listened. So beautiful, on the page, in the air. Magical. Yes. A kind of alchemy here. Terrible? I don’t know. But I do know that there’s a wonderful voice and music in these poems.

    • December 2, 2011 at 9:20 am

      Barbara, what a lovely compliment–yes, I am definitely one of those writers who still bow to the beautiful and believe that poetry should lean toward music. (And, oddly enough, I have a recent series of poems that owes a big debt to alchemy.)

      I hope you and others who like the poem will take a peep into my latest book (“The Throne of Psyche”) and find something to like there as well! I feel very glad to think that the internet (see links above to find me elsewhere) allows us to give a little gift of poetry to new readers.

  1. December 1, 2011 at 10:55 am
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