Marly Youmans

Marly Youmans writes in a number of forms, small and large. She writes poems. She once was mad enough to write an epic poem (forthcoming). She writes novels, though people say (sometimes disapprovingly!) that she never does the same thing twice. And she writes Southern fantasy novels for children veering toward adulthood; she hadn't planned on that one, but unexpected things happen after children are born. Her collaborations with artists include work with painters Makoto Fujimura, Clive Hicks-Jenkins (Wales), Graham Ward (England), Lynn Digby (Ohio, US), and composer Paul Digby (UK-born but now an Ohioan!). She is a Carolinian who now lives in James Fenimore Cooper's wintry Cooperstown with her husband and three children. It is a good place for the Southern-born writer, because it is so cold; winter is her best time for work...

Sakura

1.
As Far as East from West

Sparse
Sprinkle:
Bloom.

Moonlight
Alighting
On branch,

Butterflies
Wobbling on breeze,
Stemmed to bark.

All careless ease,
The windless siftings,
Petals in grass.

The first unfurlings
On the world’s eastern cheek—
Then blades dig for roots.

A boat, flower-freighted,
Is a clipper ship to snare
The gusts of spring in sails.

A secret labyrinth roots,
Survives the monsters at its heart,
Thrusts up a castle of flags.

The years corkscrew against the sky.
Once more buds yield and the blossoms break,
Helpless to halt another spring.

 

2.
Self-portrait as Dryad, no. 9

The waters are a mirror showing my face,
Dimly on ice, ruffled in breeze, plain
For those passers who have the eyes to see.
Arthritic, jointed, my tree is a castle
Where I sink in rings on rings of years,
An old woman’s sleep—fetal, contorted.
When moonlight wakes me in the spring and all
My crookedness is lured to flowering,
I lift the urns of buds, the petal bowls
That catch moonshine and overflow with light—
And I am ringing with the melody
Of light, as if my bowls were singing bowls,
And all my years of rings were lifted up
To greet the brightening moon’s face, and all
My hours of rootedness and sleep transformed.
And now I catch the rainy flood of moon,
Reflect my spirit face into the sky,
And now at once in dark I am the sun
And stars and moon, I am a galaxy.
Lay down your sword, set down your ink-charged pen,
And dress in sky-blue robes and draw near me.
In brokenness I bow to flowering,
All of me yearning to be seen and known.
Waterfalls of God pour through me, blossom
In my bones and hair: now for one instant
I grant your newborn wish, bless and forgive.

 

3.
East to West to East

Arakawa River’s
Three thousand cherry trees
Are floated East to West.

If two countries’ quivers
Stored wands of leafy green,
Their people would be blessed.

But peace can prove a lie,
War bow us to our knees
Though flowers ride the breeze.

A hundred springs go by,
And bones of Western trees
Are lopped and grafted East.

 

4.
The Dryad in Cherry-Blossom Time

And you, old man, come here and orbit me,
Itō Jakuchū, with your pack of brush
And silk and ink: yes, it is as I knew.

You see through bloom the brightness of my face.

 

5.
Riddle

Am I the dreamer
Who dreams of the fluttering
From the branch to grass?

Or am I petal,
Dreaming the tumble to earth,
Wakening to dreams?

 

6.
Tree Spirit Song
Diminuendo

Kodama,
Echo-words.

Kodama,
Ghost-of-tree.

Kodama,
Sings-with-birds.

Kodama,
Mystery.

 

 

 

Occasionally, we enjoy having contributors curate an entire of issue of the magazine. Makoto Fujimura, founder of the International Arts Movement (publisher), commissioned three colleagues to collaborate on this special final March issue.  As you’ll gather, the emphasis is on Japan.