Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The grief for three children--

I'm guessing this detail is from a piece by Justin Guerard,
but I am not entirely sure. Help welcome! Photographed
at North Carolina Glass 2012, WCU
Georgia, Georgia... My childhood's summers in heat and flowers. The freedom of running down the pink dirt lane between cotton and tobacco, the tenant shack at Lexsy, the high white Queen Anne house at Collins, the old-fashioned shop with its silver fixtures for mixing soda, the moonflowers floating in a green dark, the still-hot figs from the tree like tousled blossoms in my mouth. How could you crack my heart this way? Child-killers. A baby slain. No. No!

Am I more tender-hearted than I once was, or is the news of the day, bruited across the world, more terrible, more tearful? Hasn't the world always been shattered into sharp pieces? When I was a little child, our teachers made us crouch under our school desks. This, they said, would save us. Obediently we made ourselves like turtles, pulling in our arms and legs, bowing our heads.

Is this more dreadful than the events of the past century--men and women and children taking refuge in a church and being burned alive, somewhere in Rwanda? Is it worse than children being made to wear black uniforms and toss the bodies of other children on a heap of flesh and bone, somewhere in Cambodia? Is it worse than the raped and murdered and torched Armenian martyrs? Is it worse than the ovens of Europe, so close to villages and towns where people went on with their lives as though nothing strange ever blackened the heavens?

No, it is not worse but somehow the same, and here at the end of Lent I touch the edge of glass, the brokenness. I feel the pungent, oily human smoke in the sky because of a murdered baby in a stroller. I sense the spirits rising from the warm bodies of people no longer divided by tribe or language or religion or color. I know the ongoing sluice of murder and martyrdom around the world because of a mother attempting to shield a child with her arms, because of a bullet in her leg, because of a casual bullet flown to the child's head.

Love did not save that child. Day by day, love is martyred. Love is pegged to the cross, its arms out to the world. And we do not go out in the streets with ashes on our heads, we do not wear sackcloth and repent. We do not open our mouths in a universal howl of grief.
"You see what I am: change me, change me!"


  1. Oh, but were the howl, "You see what am: I must change, I must change!"

    Life is full of beauty and brutality. Stunningly so.

    Thank you, Marly, for these thoughts this morning.

  2. Beauty and brutality, yes. The long story...

    Hah, our e-friend David R. just said on fb that it's "damn wonderful!" A compliment from him without any lemurs and such has to make all bloggish labors worth the effort, doesn't it?

    Safe travels, Paul and Lynn--

  3. Beautiful, Marly. And so very sad.

  4. Thank you, Terri--thanks for lighting down in my little world. It is so sad. You have a lovely baby at 40, lose him at 41.

  5. Gorgeous Marly. If only all such howls in response to pain and injustice were as articulate, perhaps it would make a difference.

  6. If only we didn't just go on shopping or texting or flirting or watching the tube... If only we could stop and be still and hushed.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.