Wednesday, November 02, 2011


. . . my sisters married parched old kings
To give my father fine alliances;
I scaled the tree and heard an oracle
Foretell I would not bear a fate like theirs.

– Marly Youmans, The Throne of Psyche


All the girls, driven early to choose
between old men and monsters, between
gods in masks and gods in suits of gore:

Could we not for one gold month in summer
declare time out? Say July, July
will be the month of no seductions,

not a marriage, not a grope, no sly
or brutal innuendo. Just a month
for children to be children, thirty days

to play and wonder, look up at the sky
and see no vicious swans: see no
slack-faced bulls swimming the bloody sea?


No delays. We stumble in our haste
to pitch our evils, wounded and gasping,
in the fresh-earthed mounds where Venus

was rumored to be snapped with her new friend,
(unless it was Brigitte or Brittany or Eve)
and Vulcan's agony churned the ground.

No truce, no peace, no amnesty; if you wait
at all the good ones may be gone. We used
to cut an eye-hole in the melon rind

and thrust a dirty finger in its flesh:
waiting for elegant slices took too long.


But this is only always to look backward,
too late, too late, the summer is too late!
And we run backward through the flickering reel

and back before the first red sons
rose glaring in the bloody-fingered east:
we try to say “here, it started here,” but tapes

snap and glitter and run on and on, each crime
turns out more monstrous than the one it spawned,
till only Sin remains, alone and naked,

stitching fig leaves, with a trembling needle,
onto its swollen lips. And still the film runs on.


Somewhere in Ionia faithful servants
restore the lion gate. Women are everywhere,
none of them afraid: the sky has softened

and they talk in quiet voices. The men are asleep,
with smeared faces, bruised into beauty,
the paths of their tears pale, edged with black;

ash-crust is clotted on their eyelashes,
and their beards are stiff with seaweed.
The woman hope that, rescued from the tide,

and spread out thus to dry, perhaps they'll
bleach to some acceptable color,
and wake before the rains.


marly youmans said...

An honor to be blamed for these, Dale! I like the way the sea and sky return, painted so differently, in the end. (And I remember that those are lionesses on the Lion Gate... which I think is also a sort of a fusion of female and male since it is a king's symbol.)

I found your fb comments most amusing... It is peculiar, perhaps, but I have never thought of myself as an "-ist" of any kind, and yet I suppose my doom (or reward?) is that I must be seen so. I just sort of blundered on quite by myself (lovely that in the age of the internet one does not have to be so) until I became as I am. "And there I found myself more truly and more strange," I suppose.

Dale said...

To tell the truth, I don't think of you as a "formalist" or anything else but "the woman who writes those gorgeous poems."

Marly Youmans said...

Aw, that is so sweet! Think I better click my heels together...

Lucy said...

Astonishing. And a worthy and gorgeous spinning away from Marly's, which I shall go back to now.

Beth said...

Dale, I like this one very much, and was especially taken with the first stanza. Enjoying seeing where you're finding inspiration these days!

Dale said...

The Pysche poems are so beautiful, Beth. I don't know if you've had a chance to read them? Tennyson wasn't a dead end after all.