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, December 17, 2013

Rocking in the ship of trees--

All dressed in snow and holly and berries for the season...
Here's a poem for the nigh-endless falling feathers and stars and cold of the past three days. I wrote it for my youngest child one night when the winter winds were toying with the corners of our federal-era house. It was originally published in Angle. Last year it was reprinted in The Foliate Head (UK: Stanza Press, 2012), where it has the company of many other poems and the marvelous interior and exterior artwork of the Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

Stanza goes foliate!

Ship of Trees

Nails tingle in boards, freezing in the grain,
And the whole house struggles to conjure some
Swaying rootedness, rampire and bulwark
Against invader cold and winter’s gusts.
Outside, the still-living limbs comb and catch;
Migrant months ago all leaf-freight tumbled
South to mulch—and so this naked writhing
With no green hands to stem the streams of air.
In the heaped bed, your hazel eyes yawn black,
Staring into the night, at pale tossings
Past the windowpanes, as the winds shiver
The glass, playing it like an instrument.
I lie down by your side to whisper how
Inside each weathered length of sawn clapboard,
—More than two centuries old, that harvest—
Sleep rings of years, the memory of trees.
Wood will remember how to stand in brunt
Of freeze and gash of winds, to dance, to tack
Like a grove of chestnuts sailing the breeze,
Bringing the cargo of us to shores of dawn.
And when you drift away from me, I lie
With eyes open to the rule of darkness,
Hearing the cold withdrawing of the nails,
Watching branches sweep the prickles of stars.
Your breath is pulsing on my cheek, and I
Shift closer, pushing away all winter thoughts,
Letting each die, alone, in the chilly room
Like a stranger who lacks my harbored joy.


  1. Oh, I like this very much, Marly!

    "Sleep rings of years, the memory of trees..."
    Sigh, as a lover of wood homes, this says it for me!

    Hope your storms end soon and all is well.

  2. Gosh, wow that's good.

    I dont' want to alarm you, but your blog has become suddenly violet, very pretty.

  3. Hi Marja-Leena,

    We're supposed to have some rain later in the week... Not sure I'm happy about that, as I have to go to White River Junction, Vermont and back again. Rain on snow means . . . lots of white mist and fog!

    So glad the poem pleased you!

    Scott, thanks! Happy that you think so.

    Hah, hah! Does it look violet? On my screen it looks more of a mauve at the tabs, and just a faint tinge elsewhere. It's called "thistle" in the html color list. Too bright? I like to change the colors now and then, but was afraid this might look too close to pink... Also, I always thought "The Foliate Head" got lost on a white background and that I ought to add a tiny splash of color to the white. I have done a very pale buff yellow background before, almost invisible.

  4. Lovely, and just right for the season. What a beautiful book that is! I have it on my shelf and need to take it down and read it a little.

  5. Okay, there's a vote to leave it as is a while.

    Thanks, Robbi--hope you find something to like when you do...

  6. Yes, mauve is what I meant; I couldn't think of the word earlier. I'm starting to have vocabulary lapses.

    Like I said, it's pretty, do leave it a while!

  7. You and me both... Not very fond of that weird blank where a word should be...

    Shall do.


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.