Marly Youmans

The Buried Girl

Icumen in

The tree embarked on bloom in May.
She sensed a hush, as if late snows
Had changed the nature of a day
To mystery, and feet of crows
Sent instant tremors through the clay.
The trembling struck her like the blows
A tuning fork will make on air:
Then brunt of darkness met her stare.

Seemingly, she would have risen
And walked among the blooming trees,
Save that she was jailed in prison
And could feel neither sun nor breeze.
She felt the loss as a frisson
Of fright that faded to unease.
A tap root held her pinioned fast
Below the streaming locks of grass.

In days to come she couldn't wrest
A peaceful sleep from her despair--
The heat of summer stole her rest,
Loud caws made mincemeat of the air,
The demon root, a thing unblessed,
Demanded heart as its fair share:
In time she gave herself to thieves
And shattered into summer leaves.

The Bottle Tree

Beyond the burning cotton fields once grew
A bottle tree; my memory won't tell
What flowering plant it was, though I recall
The loose pale blossoms shaking in the wind
And petals dripping on a raked sand yard.
The leaves were ordinary green and burnt
When August dog-days circled round again,
The hound of seasons chasing its own tail.
Ghost-catching bottles heated air to fire,
Killing any leaf or flower jailed in glass--
I'd guess there were some forty on the boughs,
Reflective things that jarred the sun to make
Exploding stars that jabbed into my eyes.
My steps would falter, walking by the place,
And sometimes I would slip beneath and stare
At carnival displays of bottle-bloom--
The glass fired amethyst by too much sun,
The lightly radioactive cobalt glass,
The twinkling rose, pale pinks, a jello green.
A breeze would whistle in and out the mouths:
I liked to think it was the talk of ghosts
Trapped and calling from the antic bottles.
One night a storm cloud roamed across the farm,
Banging screens against unpainted clapboard,
Thrusting chickens backward in mid-scuttle
Across a wind-raked, tumbled sea of sand.
All night we listened to fell gibberings
As sprites and demons lashed the stallion storm
And wind unpinned the crops from neat-hoed rows.
At dawn I staggered, lifted by the gusts,
And found the tree tormented, crooked, crouched.
The ghosts had burst into a wilderness
Of blackgum swamp along the pale dirt road,
Where I could hear them shrilling in the leaves.
The cries made fine hairs hackle at my nape
As I whirled round to stare into the trees,
Then spun again in haunted fright to look
At bottles smashed to lidless, sharp-edged eyes
That threatened body's branching tree of blood,
Glaring and winking from rain-rumpled dirt
As if some Argos monster, peacock-eyed,
Unbottled by a hurricane of ghosts,
Had surfaced from his shallow Southern grave.


photo courtesy of
Rebecca Beatrice
Marly Youmans is the author of seven books, including poetry, novels, and several young adult fantasies set in the South. Her awards include The Michael Shaara Award for The Wolf Pit (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), which was also one of two finalists for the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. Forthcoming are two novels (Glimmerglass and Maze of Blood) and two books of poetry, The Foliate Head (UK: P. S. Publishing, with illustrations and cover by Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins) and The Throne of Psyche (Mercer University Press.)


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