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Marly Youmans

Nihongan Altar

for Makoto Fujimura

The bowls are filled with offerings.
One holds the azurite,
One malachitethe other things
Are unguent, gold, and light

Or rather, crystals still unsealed
By mortar and pestle,
Their inner nature unrevealed
Like a stoppered vessel.

He steps into a finished work
As if into a hall
Of mirrorsarts, randomness, quirk
Each have a right to call

His name: his face is everywhere,
He's center, edge, and four
Corners; and yet, he's lost, not there
Dispersed in rock like ore.

Who unwound this labyrinth
Of noonday mystery?
And what white figure on a plinth
Ordained its history?

Some forty layerings of paint
Refract the sunthis way
The jewelled landscape, like a saint,
Goes saturate with day.

Names of God, in silver script,
Are tarnishing with time,
The golden words of God encrypt
His keys to the sublime.

The facets of the painter's soul
Are glittering like glass.
In shattering he yields the whole
Brokenness like the Mass.

Marly Youmans is the author most recently of Claire (LSU Press), a sequence of poems, and The Curse of the Raven Mocker, a Young Adult novel. Its sequel, Ingledove, will be published in May by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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