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

Monday, April 15, 2013

Clock of the Moon and Stars

Clive Hicks-Jenkins
for The Foliate Head

Now and then a poem flies out into the world that feels strange but wholly understood... And then as time passes, it becomes stranger to the writer, until it seems almost not hers.

Here's a little poem from The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012) that feels so to me. It was originally published in that magical 'zine, The Flea, created by the late Paul Stevens. I miss meeting Paul online, and I also grieve the thought that never again will he make us such a wondrous, unexpected, and altogether odd place for poetry as The Flea, inspired by a love of the metaphysicals: "Mark but this flea, and mark in this . . ."

Now I wonder if this poem is not a distant child of Frost's "Acquainted with the Night": "O luminary clock against the sky / Proclaimed the time was neither wrong or right."

Clock of the Moon and Stars

O clock of the silver moon and stars, stop
This incessant trickling and spilling in chimes;
Hasn’t there been enough of singing—choir
At its struggles, Magnum Mysterium 
Going backward and forward and inside out,
The women trilling over mops as the doors
Fly open and the suds freeze on the snow,
The poor child with its shrill demanding song
That called the spirits to take possession?
Hasn’t there been enough of dropping
The quarter hours and the whole in chimes?

You harry me, you remind me of much,
O clock of the moon and stars: the silvery
Mysteries and the past and the damned child
Hurtled to hell in a carriage of flame.

* * *
More on recent books:
  • Thaliad's epic adventure in verse here and here (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2012)
  • The Foliate Head's collection of poems from Stanza Press (UK) here
  • A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage from Mercer University Press (ForeWord 2013 finalist, The Ferrol Sams Award, 2012) here
  • The Throne of Psyche, collection of poetry from Mercer, 2011, here
  • Excerpts at Scribd


  1. I don't write poems, but surely I've written short stories that now seem to have come from someone else's pen, someone very different from me.

    I like this poem very much. I've felt the clock harrassing me a great deal of late, and I do wish it would stop. I'm probably reading some of my own weary crankiness into your work.

  2. Go ahead! Read into! That's fine--poems are never quite finished until they are read, so I expect every reading makes a slightly different poem.

  3. Love this.

    Oh, time doth fly too fast. Stop the clocks, let me off!
    Yes, I'm feeling the passage of time deeply right now.

  4. It's an infinite subject... And we so limited.

  5. Magnificent. I'd like to get this by heart, I think.

  6. Dale: huge compliment! Utterly sweet.

  7. It's a beautiful poem, Marly.

  8. Thank you, Beth--much appreciated!


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.