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 07, 2014

Marly at random

Eucalyptus bark, courtesy of Ruth Steele, Devon, UK and 
Today I am spending most of time in ways that take me back to high school--I went to see the twelve Ruggles essay finalists, all juniors, including my own youngest child and others I know well. And I'll be off to Mt. Markham for a track meet soon. In between I wanted to read galleys but had too much else to do, alas. Maybe tonight I will manage it! Update: Somebody give me a gold star. Almost two hours in the sleet with an umbrella over my head. And give child no. 3 a gold star as well. Frozen. These wild, hardy Yanks finally called off the last three events. All the kids were soaking wet and shaking with cold. Brrr!

Not having much time, I am going to just open up one of my recent books, stab a finger down, and leave you with whatever I found... And here it is, the start of a scene (A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage) after the wandering Pip has lit down in California, which looks very different from the sharecropper's farm he knew back in south Georgia.

* * *

     After a while one of the little girls began crying in her sleep, and Irisanne woke and got up. He could see her sitting on the floor by the cot, her hand swooping along the child's spine. The Rushing of the wind through the branches grew louder, made him feel uneasy. When her daughter tossed restlessly in the cot, the mother began to sing an old tune:

          Silvering's on the Jordan stream,
          Silvering's on the feet that pass,
          And bright silvering's on the tree.

          It's lessening that time imparts;
          Hours of sorrow fall upon us,
          And sad and sere are all our hearts--

     To Pip it felt eerie and comfortless, the melody even more mournful than the verses. He got up and slipped down the stairs. Outside the house, he could still make out the words, the notes mixing with the noise from the leaves.
     Swain had called the trees a windbreak, but they were more like a confined, immensely high forest than anything so domestic and useful. He walked on the aromatic debris, looking up at the chinks of moon through the canopy and pausing to touch the bones. He had never seen anything like the grove of eucalyptus with the moonlight showering down. The older trees had few lower branches, and the trunks were tall and tapering but straight like masts for a clipper ship. Where the saplings were crowed, they spired up, narrow and tall. Some of the mature trunks looked as if they had been sheathed in tattered wallpaper that shed in ribbons and flakes, but underneath the smooth naked skin was as smooth and fair as the inner thigh of a girl--one with hair so pale and metallic that she might be an elf or a fairy. He touched a tree like mottled silver marble. The wind fell away, and the mosaic of leaves above him grew still: blue, light green, grey-green, and jade.

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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.