Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Summer sampler, part two

Named as one of their Favorite Books of 2015
at 
Books and Culture Magazine, Maze of Blood 
(Mercer University Press, 2015), is a visceral
shot to the senses and a fine filament tugging
at the imagination that examines the results
of thwarted dreams and desires in the life
of a young writer. Set in rural Texas
in the 1930’s, Marly Youmans uses language
as both scalpel and wand to conjure a place
and time as real as the abandoned oil wells
and as otherworldly as the magical lands
of the great epic poems.... Suzanne Brazil
The start of the 11th chapter of Maze of Blood...

The girl broke into his house like a wave.
Windows were thrown open to let the breeze in, and the crickets sawed like mad on their dry, chitinous fiddles. Somewhere in the background a radio played a cowboy song about horse thieves and a broken heart. Conall had been rattling the Underwood’s keys and ranting a story to the air when she sailed through the door and splashed against the walls.
His mother and father tried to turn her away, as if pushing with their dried, withered fingers against the blue-and-green swell of a mermaid. But her voice rang out so loudly that she woke him from a tale of bushwhacking across the wilderness, and he came into the living room.
Her brown eyes held his.
    He could feel the walls starting to buckle—could feel some kind of radiance pouring out of her and pushing at the meager room, making the dilapidated couch and chairs stand out in all their cheerlessness. Perfume blossomed in the air that had been stale and smelled faintly of illness. Her presence diminished his mother and father, and they dwindled to toys. She might as well have been a tiger roaming the Sikhote-Alin mountains, and they two little rabbits in the ginseng leaves! Her body moved easily, as if she were more at home in the house than they, with more of a right to be there. Conall felt a ripple of pleasure—or gratefulness—perhaps even joy. Whatever it was, the sensation was so unfamiliar that he could not put a final name to it and knew only that for all his bulk, he felt very light on feet that seemed about to float up from the floor. He wanted to rush to her, wrap his arms around her, and sniff the scent of her hair, and he would have been content to hold her that way for a long time.
“You reminded me of a poem,” he told her, later on in the evening.
“What poem?”
“‘Kubla Khan.’ The way the water goes dancing and diving.”
“Next time I’ll bring my dulcimer,” she said..
“My Abyssinian maid,” he said, and smiled.
“The Abyssinian maid melted away like the poem.”
“I’ll have to hold on tight,” he said.
She dazzled him. A kind of bewitchment was shed from her fingertips as she spoke. In the distance, crickets were chirping, and a few spotted chorus frogs were throat-singing—their vocal sacs emitting a series of rasping trills. Conall said that the frogs had been Mongolians in another life but had been sent to Texas to repent of their sins. He told her that he had called up the moon especially for her and that the harvest moon belonged to Ceres. Soon, he said, the daughter of the goddess would be leaving for the winter kingdom of Hades. He wondered how Persephone, so full of light and life, could endure such a kingdom of darkness.
   Clinging close to the horizon, the enormous autumn moon had taken on the surprising color of a rutabaga. Perhaps they had danced under the moon together. Conall didn’t know how to dance but couldn’t imagine that ignorance would have stopped him. He could not remember, though he could still feel her hand that was small and warm and sweet-smelling. Perhaps the dancing had come later in his dreams.
Her name was Maybelline.

Note: hardcovers of Maze of Blood and Glimmerglass are currently on half-price sale at Amazon.

2 comments:

  1. Hmm. I had to look up the Sikhote-Alin mountains, of course. Long ago, I used an Underwood typewriter, but it never drew this sort of intruder; perhaps wilderness stories are the charm?

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    Replies
    1. Oh, I had forgotten they were in that passage! I can't tell you where my intruders come from, any more than anyone else can tell of their own, I suppose. I do seem to like wilderness; well, I imagine that's on the edge of chaos, where strange things happen and out of which new things come.

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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.