Posts Tagged ‘Marly Youmans’

The Fugitive Light

April 3, 2012 6 comments

by Marly Youmans

Auroral nights, the moon a flick of peel,
When I am dyed in blush of northern lights . . .
The waving colors steal
Across the sky, turn flights
Of sea-green souls to rose, as hard to vase
As flower she who faded in my arms.

What’s light-struck flits, as a sunset raises
Its glowing bars to fence another day
Away from us; as blazes
Die to coal; as one ray
Illuminates in memory your face,
Then darkens like an hour of grave alarms.

In dreams you come to me and take my hand,
And nothing fades or flees when you are there.
On waking, I am unmanned,
Sundering and care
My lot; yet I will bear the daily grace
Of bread and voice recalled and sun that warms.

“The Fugitive Light” pays homage to the young Richard Wilbur of The Beautiful Changes and Other Poems (1947). However, the subject matter of the death of the beloved comes from the elder Mr. Wilbur and his poem “The House” (Anterooms, 2010), evoking his late wife and the longing that comes after death parts those who had the fortune of a happy marriage. Likewise I have ended with the simplicity of his late poems.

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Just published is Marly Youmans’s ninth book, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (The Ferrol Sams Award of Mercer University Press, 2012. Chapter one of the novel can be read at Scribd). Her most recent book of poems is The Throne of Psyche, also from Mercer (2011). Forthcoming books of poetry and fiction include the long poem Thaliad from Beth Adams’ Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal.

Categories: Imitation Tags:

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

November 16, 2011 14 comments

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.).

Categories: Worship Tags:

The Dream of the Rood

March 4, 2011 32 comments

translated by Marly Youmans

What follows is a translation of the narrative half of the Anglo-Saxon dream vision, a part of the tenth-century Vercelli Book. The text pre-dates the book (a portion in runic alphabet was found on the Ruthwell Cross in Northumbria, dated to the late seventh or early eighth century). The original poem, included below the translation here, is vivid, using warrior imagery to describe Christ, who could be said to become a strange sort of “goldgiefa” or Anglo-Saxon gold-giver, lord to the loyal thane-cross of Middle-earth. The poem is alliterative, hyper-metric, and marked by kennings. This version hews to the formal alliteration that binds half-lines (note that a vowel alliterates with any vowel), striving to give at least a sense of Anglo-Saxon prosody while retaining the sense and color of the original. When I was a young poet, I studied Old English with Geoffrey Russom and hope that he would not be too bothered by how I have dealt with the cruxes of the poem.

Listen! I tell the topmost     of trances,
the marvel met as dream     in middle-night
when speech-bearers     slumbered in bed!
Though sleeping I saw     a sight-surpassing tree
aloft in air     in aureoles of light,
the brightest beam.     That beacon-sign
was garbed all in gold     and gemstones stood
fair at earth’s four corners     and five also were
set on the axis-span.     All stared at the fair-destined,
this angel emissary     —no outlaw cross—
that holy spirits here     beheld,
men on earth-mould,     and all marvelous creation.
The triumph tree, wondrous!     Tarred by sin,
Sore stained by wounds,     I saw the glory-tree
All clad in costly raiment,     coruscating with joy,
geared in gold-gleam,     with gemmy stones that
Sheathed in splendor     a shaft from the weald.
Yet through gold-thickness     I then discerned
Ere-strife of sinners     that began to show,
Blood seeping from the side.     Sadness troubled me,
I feared the fair sight.     That fate-beacon at times
changed its cladding—     crowned with treasure
or dowsed in dankness,     drenched by bloodflow.
I long lingered,     lay there
Heavy-hearted and beheld     the healer’s tree
Till flawless fair-wood     framed words and spoke:
“In years now yore     —I yearn for them still—
I was hewn from havens     at holt’s selvage,
And severed from stalk.     Strong fiend-foes seized me,
showed me as spectacle,     summoned me to lift outlaws.
Some men shouldered me     and staked me on this hill;
fiends made me fast.     The friend of mankind
hankered to climb me, hastening     hearty in his zeal.
I dared not defy     the deeming of the Lord,
to shatter or stoop     when shudderings
shook the soil,     and so I did not strike
the enemy but abided     aloft, all firm.
Yahweh, young hero,     yare and resolute,
unclothed himself to climb     on the cross, naked
and brave before many, being     barter for all.
Embraced, I was not bold     to burst toward earth,
shocking its surface,     but stayed steadfast.
Raised as rood, I reared     the ruler of heaven.
They punched with pitch-dark nails:     the puncture-wounds
looked deep-maliced and dire.     I dared not hurt any . . .
we suffered scorn as one.     I was suffused with blood,
gore begotten from his side.     When ghost yielded,
a fierce wyrd-fate     found me on that hill:
I saw the Savior, Lord-of-Hosts     Sore-stretched, racked.
The darkness dragged a cloud-pall     on the dead leader,
that shining star-glow;     shadow went forth,
duskiness under dome.     Dolorus, all creation
cried at the king’s fall:     Christ was on cross.
Some coursed and quickened,     coming to that place,
to Almighty Aetheling.     All I witnessed;
though burdened by dole-blight,     I bent, fired
by humility, to hands of men.     They handled Almighty God,
upraised from riving pain.     I rose, bereft
and bloody, besprinkled, breached     by bolts of arrows.
They laid down the limb-wearied,     aligned themselves near his head
and looked on the Lord of Heaven,     lying at leisure,
weary from war-wrack.     Warriors made his earth-house
in sight of his slayer,     shaping the bright stone,
settled the sin-conqueror     and sang a sorrow-song,
woeful at waning eve.     Wanting to wend, wretched,
they left the Lord of glory     resting with little company.
Yet we were there, weeping     a good while,
Fixed, standing fast,     after the voice flared upward,
keen cry of the warrior.     Corpse cooled,
the comely life-castle.     Men cropped our boles
all to the earth—     an awful wyrd that was!
They thrust us in a trench,     but thanes of the Lord,
his feudal friends, harrowed me,     faced me with silver and gold.


Hwæt! Ic swefna cyst     secgan wylle,
hæt [hwæt] me gemætte     to midre nihte,
syðþan reordberend     reste wunedon!
þuhte me þæt ic gesawe     syllicre treow
on lyft lædan,     leohte bewunden,
beama beorhtost.     Eall þæt beacen wæs
begoten mid golde.     Gimmas stodon
fægere æt foldan sceatum,     swylce þær fife wæron
uppe on þam eaxlegespanne.     Beheoldon þær engel dryhtnes ealle,
fægere þurh forðgesceaft.     Ne wæs ðær huru fracodes gealga,
ac hine þær beheoldon     halige gastas,
men ofer moldan,     ond eall þeos mære gesceaft.
Syllic wæs se sigebeam,     ond ic synnum fah,
forwunded mid wommum.     Geseah ic wuldres treow,
wædum geweorðode,     wynnum scinan,
gegyred mid golde;     gimmas hæfdon
bewrigene weorðlice     wealdes [wealdendes] treow.
Hwæðre ic þurh þæt gold     ongytan meahte
earmra ærgewin,     þæt hit ærest ongan
swætan on þa swiðran healfe.     Eall ic wæs mid surgum [sorgum] gedrefed,
forht ic wæs for þære fægran gesyhðe.     Geseah ic þæt fuse beacen
wendan wædum ond bleom;     hwilum hit wæs mid wætan bestemed,
beswyled mid swates gange,     hwilum mid since gegyrwed.
Hwæðre ic þær licgende     lange hwile
beheold hreowcearig     hælendes treow,
oððæt ic gehyrde     þæt hit hleoðrode.
Ongan þa word sprecan     wudu selesta:
“þæt wæs geara iu,     (ic þæt gyta geman),
þæt ic wæs aheawen     holtes on ende,
astyred of stefne minum.     Genaman me ðær strange feondas,
geworhton him þær to wæfersyne,     heton me heora wergas hebban.
Bæron me ðær beornas on eaxlum,     oððæt hie me on beorg asetton,
gefæstnodon me þær feondas genoge.     Geseah ic þa frean mancynnes
efstan elne mycle     þæt he me wolde on gestigan.
þær ic þa ne dorste     ofer dryhtnes word
bugan oððe berstan,     þa ic bifian geseah
eorðan sceatas.     Ealle ic mihte
feondas gefyllan,     hwæðre ic fæste stod.
Ongyrede hine þa geong hæleð,     (þæt wæs god ælmihtig),
strang ond stiðmod.     Gestah he on gealgan heanne,
modig on manigra gesyhðe,     þa he wolde mancyn lysan.
Bifode ic þa me se beorn ymbclypte.     Ne dorste ic hwæðre bugan to eorðan,
feallan to foldan sceatum,     ac ic sceolde fæste standan.
Rod wæs ic aræred.     Ahof ic ricne cyning,
heofona hlaford,     hyldan me ne dorste.
þurhdrifan hi me mid deorcan næglum.     On me syndon þa dolg gesiene,
opene inwidhlemmas.     Ne dorste ic hira nænigum sceððan.
Bysmeredon hie unc butu ætgædere.     Eall ic wæs mid blode bestemed,
begoten of þæs guman sidan,     siððan he hæfde his gast onsended.
Feala ic on þam beorge     gebiden hæbbe
wraðra wyrda.     Geseah ic weruda god
þearle þenian.     þystro hæfdon
bewrigen mid wolcnum     wealdendes hræw,
scirne sciman,     sceadu forðeode,
wann under wolcnum.     Weop eal gesceaft,
cwiðdon cyninges fyll.     Crist wæs on rode.
Hwæðere þær fuse     feorran cwoman
to þam æðelinge.     Ic þæt eall beheold.
Sare ic wæs mid sorgum gedrefed,     hnag ic hwæðre þam secgum to handa,
eaðmod elne mycle.     Genamon hie þær ælmihtigne god,
ahofon hine of ðam hefian wite.     Forleton me þa hilderincas
standan steame bedrifenne;     eall ic wæs mid strælum forwundod.
Aledon hie ðær limwerigne,     gestodon him æt his lices heafdum,
beheoldon hie ðær heofenes dryhten,     ond he hine ðær hwile reste,
meðe æfter ðam miclan gewinne.     Ongunnon him þa moldern wyrcan
beornas on banan gesyhðe;     curfon hie ðæt of beorhtan stane,
gesetton hie ðæron sigora wealdend.     Ongunnon him þa sorhleoð galan
earme on þa æfentide,     þa hie woldon eft siðian,
meðe fram þam mæran þeodne.     Reste he ðær mæte weorode.
Hwæðere we ðær reotende [greotende]     gode hwile
stodon on staðole,     syððan stefn up gewat
hilderinca.     Hræw colode,
fæger feorgbold.     þa us man fyllan ongan
ealle to eorðan.     þæt wæs egeslic wyrd!
Bedealf us man on deopan seaþe.     Hwæðre me þær dryhtnes þegnas,
freondas gefrunon,
ond gyredon me     golde ond seolfre.

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Marly Youmans (website, blog) is the author of six novels, including The Wolf Pit (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/The Michael Shaara Award) and Val/Orson, which was set among the tree sitters of California’s redwoods, as well as a collection of poetry. Currently forthcoming are three novels: Glimmerglass and Maze of Blood from P. S. Publishing (UK) and A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (winner of the Ferrol Sams Award/Mercer University Press), and three books of poetry: The Throne of Psyche from Mercer University Press, The Foliate Head from Stanza Press (UK), and Thaliad from Phoenicia Publishing (Montreal).

Categories: Translation Tags:

Two poems from the Plant Kingdom

January 24, 2011 55 comments

by Marly Youmans


The Birthday Roses

from The Book of the Red King

Their fine green feet are pointed, hovering in the vase,
Close together as if in love but slanting outward,
Their petal perfection, their fine-grained velvet red
Is wonderfully marred as if by sgraffito—
Is there an inner layer of rot or ebony?
Dragon-toothed and tongued, the sepals of the calyx
Make up a star tightly cupping the corolla.
In time the sepals arch and thrust the widening
Whorls of petals upward: loosened wombs of fragrance.

Glasshouse dryads, the roses hold out helpless arms
That backroom florists filled with stems of babies’ breath:
The Fool drinks in the red that tends toward black, the sage
Of paddle leaves, and cranes his head to see the stars
Half-hidden underneath. I see that you are twelve,
He says aloud, as if they might be listening.
Perhaps you are the twelve months of the zodiac,
Virgins, water-bearers, archers with sheath of thorns.
Perhaps you are the twelve apostles of good news.
Perhaps you are a twelve-string lute of silences.
Or else you are the winter’s Twelve Days of Christmas
That in the cold and blackness rise to flowering.

No, I know what you are, the Fool tells the flowers,
For days or months are one, and so are blooming you…
The one who stumbled from his bed of rotten leaves.
You are my rose-red heart, my rose-red birthday hat,
The blossom in my mind: you are the Red King’s Fool.


Wielding the Tree Finder

Do you ramble the ground—are you a tree and yet a forest,
does your great bulk blossom in one night
like an elephant singing a love-song to the moon,
do you transform to a reservoir for water and stars,
do you grow hollow for whistling,
do you become an ossuary,
do you hold African mummies in your heart,
are you baobab?

Were you sacred to healers and priests who haunted oak groves,
golden shoulder pins on their woven garments,
your parasite branches in their hands
—the raspberry girl slaughtered, seeds between her teeth—
were you sharpened to a Norseman’s spearpoint,
did your mischief kill a god, fairest of the Aesir,
do you draw warmth of kisses to an orb of leaves,
are you mistletoe?

Are the rosy pastors and the bulbuls feasting on your seeds,
are you red and hairy like Esau,
are your flowers good in bowls of curried pottage,
are you a tree of red silk cotton,
bombax malabarica?

Were you a thousand scented pillars
around the forecourt of an emperor,
are you malleable in the whittler’s palm,
are you swooning-pale and infant-smooth,
are you a parasite tethered to roots of others,
are you sandalwood?

Are you loose-tethered, a yielder of leaves to wind,
are you a sender-out of roots, are you clone,
is a forest of your kind one sentience,
and in fall are you quivering yellow,
boreal, afflicted with melancholy,
a breather of mists and cold,
are you quaking aspen?

Do your flowers steam with fragrance as the heat increases,
do the chrysomelids rut within your clutch of petals,
do your blossoms shatter as the beetles copulate,
are you Amazonian—are you annona sericea?

Are you a kingdom, are you castles in the air,
are you a garden of Babylon in mist,
are your branches colonies of dreaming epiphytes,
are the flicking tails of lizards lost inside your cities,
are you flying above the prayers of the Maori,
are you kauri, the tree that must forgive?

Were you as dense and black as mythic thrones of Hades,
were you strong, were you midnight ripped in lengths,
were you foretelling gleams—Victoria’s jet beads—
were you heavier than the fat man’s coffin,
were you Pharoah’s favorite chair,
are you ebony?

Are you dawn redwood or frangipani,
are you whistle thorn or cannonball,
are you linden, myrtle, jacaranda,
are you sourwood or silverbell,
are you a branch of good and evil,
are you the lemurs’ Ravenala,
are you Yggdrasil, axis of nine worlds,
are you a cross whose branches reach forever,
are you water-tapping, cloud-catching, sun-devouring,
are you leaf, are you branch, are you root, are you tree?

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Marly Youmans (website, blog) is the author of six novels, including The Wolf Pit (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/The Michael Shaara Award) and Val/Orson, which was set among the tree sitters of California’s redwoods, as well as a collection of poetry. Currently forthcoming are three novels: Glimmerglass and Maze of Blood from P. S. Publishing (UK) and A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (winner of the Ferrol Sams Award/Mercer University Press), and three books of poetry: The Throne of Psyche from Mercer University Press, The Foliate Head from Stanza Press (UK), and Thaliad from Phoenicia Publishing (Montreal).

Categories: Translation Tags:

A Tree for Ezekiel

January 13, 2010 19 comments

by Marly Youmans

First of all, know this: the tree was dead,
It had already been dead for a time,
It was going to be dead a long while.
It was a stick in labyrinths of sand.
And yet, and yet—for this Ezekiel,
This dry-bone tree was clothed in chrysolite,
So that the leaves made glitterings in sun.
The bole was swathed in strips of China silk,
The twigs were mummied in gem-colored threads,
The shriveled root began to drink from earth.
A gust came from the East: the sound of wings,
And leaves turned in the wind—blue leaves and green
Looking, and each shaped like a human eye.
A dew arose from earth and bloomed as cloud,
Though in the desert, this was very strange
To see, and also there was far tumult
As if the dunes had changed to waterfalls.
The priest Ezekiel discerned a form
Among the staring blue and green of leaves,
Prismatic figure brightened by the light.
Ezekiel foretold: Your incense lost,
Your limestone idols headless in the dust,
Your cities and all of your histories
Wiped from the memories of everyone . . .
The centuries forget your name, your love,
The sons and daughters raised from infancy
In years that are themselves forgotten things,
And all there is of comfort is this tree,
Mysterious and riddling-strange to you,
A rainbow covenant, its promises
Too far away in time for you to see.

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Marly Youmans’ second book of poems, The Throne of Psyche, is due out soon from Mercer University Press. Keep up with all Marly Youmans-related news at The Palace at 2:00 a.m.

Categories: Words of Power Tags:

Self-Portrait as Dryad, No. 7

December 16, 2009 23 comments

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.

Categories: Words of Power Tags:

Thaliad (excerpt)

December 17, 2008 19 comments

from Thaliad, part IV

In this portion of the blank verse narrative,
a post-apocalyptic poem in fifteen parts,
a group of children are traveling on their own—
this is one incident on their journey.

Beyond the blasting fire, all roads are long;
The children wearied of the way before
The path was hours old, complained or yelled,
And, taking turns, pushed north across state lines.
Some slept and woke to see the landscape changed
From mountains into hills and farmers’ fields,
Though seldom did they see a sign of life
Except for deer and red-tailed hawks and birds—
One time a bellowing blockade of cows
Scared the children into shouts or silence,
As was the nature of each one, but Ran
Declared the herd was crying to be milked:
We will need milk, said Thalia, so sniff
And find the path to where we’re going, cows!
At that remark, the weeping Gabriel
Let out a snort, hiccuped, and laughed outloud:
See those long rows of green, he said to her,
And then those wavy hills? One day I walked
Up there with my father. I’m sure it was
The place. It could have been… It looks the same.
We found a sourwood tree that had been killed
By something, but the leaves still drooped in place,
Though every one had faded into brown.
When we came closer, leaves burst into wings—
The tree was green, the death was butterflies,
Alive and pouring like a waterfall
But upside-down from us. His gentle voice
Lingered in her ear, but when she answered,
He had begun to cry and did not hear. Read more…

A May Flower

July 7, 2008 8 comments

Dorothy May Bradford drowned in Provincetown Harbor
while the Mayflower was at mooring, December 7, 1620.

In green-shot bays my sweetheart sleeps;
She pierced the shadow of the boat
And disappeared—still I must keep
My courage safe from fear she floats
With staring eyes into the deeps
Where liquid devils jeer and gloat.

Did sharp-fanged woods spur Dorothy
To drink up death? No way to gloss
Over trials, nowhere to flee…
Her heart could augur only loss.
Whoever thought the changing sea
Would alter crossing into cross?

We pilgrims in the wilderness
Must curb our fancy’s imps and ghosts—
A penitent, I here confess
To glimpsing her along the coast:
I meant to say, God’s peace and rest,
But words fall dead when wanted most.

by Marly Youmans

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Categories: Water Tags:

Self-Portrait as Dryad, No. 5

February 8, 2008 7 comments

After Andy Goldsworthy’s
Sweet chestnut green horn
continuous spiral
each leaf laid in the fold of another
stitched with thorns

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton
9 August 1987

   Thorn-pinned, the leaf horn
Sang of silences to trees,
   Praising blossom-blow,

   Calling green-lit morn
And me. Song was meant to please
   Yet to let me know

   He who made the horn
Played to pluck me from my tree.
   The carrion crow,

   Creaky as a worn
Hinge, cawed as the canopy
   Quaked and let me go.

   His limbs are hawthorn
Flowers, white, a bed of ease.
   Mine are melting snow.

   Now that dreams are shorn
And heartwood betrayed by leaves,
   Only grief may grow:

   Better never born
Or dead than severed from trees—
   Breathless in barrow.

by Marly Youmans

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Categories: Hidden Messages Tags:

Ekphrasis 9: Laura Frankstone + Marly Youmans

April 3, 2007 3 comments


“Face 1,” by Laura Frankstone of Laurelines


A sketch after Botticelli by Laura Frankstone

This head’s more proud and sparkling than the one
Sandro painted—something like the sun

Blossoms in the face, as if acclaim
Five hundred years to come could flare as flame

In him; he is a mirror reflecting lights
From God and Medici, a moon on nights

When mythic paintings char by his own hand,
Jumbled with lutes, rouge pots, and gilded fans

In Lenten bonfires of the vanities.
And yet the face that’s swerved toward us espies

Neither magi, baby, nor company
Of nobles near the girl—he turns to see

In dazzled eyes across the near and far,
His picture glowing like the Christmas star.

by Marly Youmans

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