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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A good day for harpies--

It's hot; it's a bit humid and nasty. The raspberries are shriveling on the vines in the blazing sun. Perfect day for harpies... Yet I just realized that the harpies have appeared here before. Never mind. It's not that you can never have too many harpies; it's that harpies are persistent...

Marly Youmans, THE FOLIATE HEAD 
Amazon; Stanza Press; find an Indie

      from The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012)

Vulture-like, the harpies wheel on updrafts
Or settle in the grove of wind-whipped trees,
Their small, secretive faces looking out
Without sign of interest or passion,
As pinched and harsh as soul heads on a stone
Propped up by mourning Puritans on land
Unused to buried bone: winged skulls that glare.
One is singing, Turn away, my bonnie,
Turn away home, and yet there is nowhere
To turn, no home when such weird sisters sing.
In Cretan caves they hang like ungroomed bats,
Letting locks hang, letting the lice parade,
Their molting feathers like some nightmare bed
Where no man fancies lying—that’s a truth
That galls, for only breeze that glances here
And there and then is gone could bear to kiss
Their shriveled, wicked purse of privacies.

Bedraggled, murderous, entirely foul . . .
If they had hands, the fingers would be small,
As leathery as paws for throwing scat
At queens or prophets. No respect, no cheer,
No proper sentiment for the flawless
Horses of Achilles, their own offspring,
That wept to smell the battle-scent of death.
No sisterly devotion to Iris
Tricked out in sunstruck iridescent drops.

They’ll shriek the dawn awake and howl for flesh,
Heraldic frights so ignorant of evil
They could be us—so self-absorbed, so free.
On branches in the bleeding wood of souls,
They shift their talons, sigh in sleep like doves,
Dreaming of men like birds of paradise,
Of leaf-winged forests tumbling in a storm,
The phoenix burning on her nest of myrrh,
Who found this harpied world worth dying for.


  1. I couldn't forget this one, especially their "shriveled, wicked purse of privacies"!

  2. Eep! If they weren't harpies, I'd say that was downright rude! XD

    Interested to see who likes this one--it has some fantasy-writing fans, it seems...

  3. Heh, I was going to mention the same phrase as Robbi!

    The spirit of this fits the mood I've been caught in as I read Deborah Harkness' Discovery of Witches - hard to put down! Have you read it?

  4. That's interesting. I've seen that phrase quoted on several facebook threads, mine and another's, as well! And each time by women... I guess it must have resonance!

    No, I have not. Just looked it up. Alchemy must be back in the air. My "The Book of the Red King," which I will have time to fiddle with and finish some day soon, I hope, has an alchemical underpinning.


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.