Marly Youmans

Their Faces

The children stare at us as if alive:
This one was only three, and that one five. 

Do images convict the feeling heart?
Do ornaments a mother slid in hair
Or cradled doll or stiffly straw-packed bear
Repeat for us that sorrows need no art?

This one was only three, and that one five:
The children stare toward us as if alive.

What plainer sample of a lesson learned?
Why must the world still thunder after Cain,
Disabled of its love, embracing pain,
Eliding where such innocence was burned?

The children stare for us (see, that one’s five,
And this one only three) as if alive.

The Ancestors, Again

In unison, my ancestors 
All at once gyrate in their graves
Like synchronized swimming through time
And place—Georgia, Carolina
And foreign lands across the sea,
Some rolling like unloosened dice,
Some clattering like chandeliers…
Displeased with what’s become of me,
The child who crept through mirror books,
Young woman who made such mistakes,
Woman who kneels in snow or grass, 
Coaxing tales from glitter and dust:
Forgive me for immodesty—
Forgive that nakedness, my kin,
In thinking I could make a world,
Letting my name be bandied here
And there by strangers, North and South,
As if I thought much of myself.

Marly Youmans is the author of fifteen books of poetry and fiction. Her latest poetry collection is The Book of the Red King, from Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal, 2019, and her latest novel is Charis in the World of Wonders, published by Ignatius Press of San Francisco in 2020.