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

Friday, April 24, 2015

NPM4: I give you water-devil whirligigs--

April, national poetry month, no. 4

Image by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
 from the back of The Foliate Head
"I Heard Their Wings Like the Sound of Many Waters,"
The Foliate Head (hardcover from Stanza Press, 2012)

I like bigness in a poem, and this one started with a phrase that has a cosmic largeness to it. I also like mystery in a poem, and don't think all that much of a poem that exhausts all its mystery in short order, so I hope this one retains both largeness and mystery. It first appeared in the qarrtsiluni here.


"I Heard Their Wings Like the Sound of Many Waters"

In the dark, in the deeps of the night that are
Crevasses of a sea, I heard their wings.
I heard the trickling of tiny feathers
With their hairs out like milkweed parachutes
Floating idly on the summer air,
I heard the curl and splash, the thunderbolts
Of pinions, the rapids and rattle of shafts—
Heard Niagara sweep the barreled woman
And shove her under water for three days,
I heard a jar of fragrance spill its waves
As a lone figure poured out all she could,
Heard the sky’s bronze-colored raindrops scatter
On corrugated roofs and tops of wells,
I heard the water-devil whirligigs,
I heard an awesome silence when the wings
Held still, upright as flowers in a vase,
And when I turned to see why they had stilled,
Then what I saw was likenesses to star
Imprisoned in a form of marble flesh,
With a face like lightning-fires and aura
Trembling like a rainbow on the shoulders,
But all the else I saw was unlikeness
That bent me like a bow until my brow
Was pressed against the minerals of earth,
And when I gasped at air, I tasted gold.

Interior division page with art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
The Foliate Head book design by Andrew Wakelin


  1. I know that envy is one of the deadly sins, but -- what the hell -- I envy your imaginative powers.

    BTW, Beyond Eastrod is "dead" but Crimes in the Library is alive. I cannot explain the reasons -- they are too numerous (and confusing even to me) -- but blogging continues in a different disguise.

    1. Oh, well, that is a fine compliment!

      I shall come by later... and see what you have done.

  2. Magical, mysterious, very Marly!

    1. Alliterative Marja-Leena! Thanks!

      Although I feel neither magical nor mysterious at the moment. But laundry will do that for you... Shakes off any fey dust.


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.