Published by Enitharmon Press, 2004. For more information click here.
“[Martyn Crucefix] writes with precision and respect and a secular sense of the sacred, including a ballad about two lovers shot in divided Sarajevo, sung – astonishingly and effectively – by the ubiquitous water which features in their lives and deaths” Andrew Stibbs Iron
Crucefix has, as always, an exceptional ear . . . ‘On Night’s Estate’ is global in its vantage point . . . It’s a dark poem, portending monsters and catastrophe in a way that reminds one of Yeats’ ‘The Second Coming’ and makes us read the title of Crucefix’s book in a different way. It’s a superbly intelligent ending to a very strong collection. Kathryn Maris, Poetry London
“The measurement of truth against blood is at the heart of Crucefix’s poetic instinct. His motors come in many sizes; yet they all draw their elecriticity from the friction between the tried and untried possibilities of language [. . .] Crucefix can aspire to be the patron saint who can lift us into the clouds of the small near-magic-realist lyric (‘Scoop’), or a high-flying purveyor of majestic clarity (‘On Night’s Estate’), or a tight-rope-walker forever balancing himself over the symbolic-sense divide (‘So Far’ and ‘Clay Town’) and in the best of these poems we rise with him and are then returned to earth by his many routes, squarely, impressively, on both feet. Mario Petrucci, Acumen
Impelled by a sense that our personal, social and corporate behaviours grow ever more infantile, these are poems that scrutinise the child, the child-like and the childish.
“I see you drop from the black, splintered pane,
sprawl, bruised and quivering as a newly-born
in your college room – then up and alert,
the strangeness of our futures a thing yet to learn”
Writing with humour, candour and precision, Crucefix’s fourth collection reflects the innocence and distress of modern childhood, its often bewildering transitions into the adult world where egotism, anger and acquisitiveness wait.
An English Nazareth calls up an extraordinary cast of real and fictional characters – Alexander von Humboldt, Mr Marvel, Lady Richeldis of Walsingham, Wimbledon referee Alan Mills, Radovan Karadzic, the Cleverly boy – and in doing so these poems further extend the formal and tonal range of a writer whose work confronts us with the fact “of innocence already dead, / the book’s sole intent to show it had to happen”.
From this collection:
17 Britannia Square
To keep it steady, I stand on the bottom rung.
The galvanised ladder from a neighbour’s shed
creaks and squeals under your stepping weight.
It sounds like coins being scraped together.
Last to leave, I could not manage ten minutes 5
in charge of your tall, Edwardian house.
Because I forgot to bring the key – rung on rung,
self-conscious as no real intruder would be,
now you find a way through your own walls.
And if we did not then, we might once have done 10
this kind of thing – the cat-burgling high-jinks,
a pair of students climbing to college windows
against vigilant authority, as then, after a drink,
loose-tongued and having – as Keats once called it –
not a dispute, but a disquisition on how a man 15
could possess no determined self, like a state
that sees no need of a constitution.
Now that looks as much risk as opportunity.
I see you pull up the sash, begin to wriggle
into your bathroom and it seems less a truth 20
to last beyond our teens. Your hips, your knees
and disappearing calves, your feet – swallowed,
but for a tiny back kick, one heel cracking
a window pane, white star-burst like a rifle shot,
as you vanish at last, absorbed to your house, 25
your job, your family. All the while I wait below
in love with mine. In the minutes it takes you
to come downstairs, laughing, unlock the door,
I see you drop from the black, splintered pane,
sprawl, bruised and quivering as a newly-born 30
in your college room – then up and alert,
the strangeness of our futures a thing yet to learn.
A boy’s errand
I go to Spar and Mr Adams
who drops his small hands
beneath the counter
where it’s already wrapped
in white tissue paper.
Crisp, soft and undisturbed,
I carry it close to my chest,
the length of my forearm,
palm flat to one end.
It’s like something asleep.
It seems crisper today –
the pressure of my fingers
telling the birth-smell
of heat, yeast, risen air.
The confining tin
held sides to softness
and the crusty burst,
split down the length,
sharp-edged and breakable,
caramelly across my tongue.
And each bite a glimpse –
one leading to the next
till I’m nuzzling in,
jaggedness on my cheeks
being bitten, biting deep
through crust to white flesh
as if there were a heart
I might lay my hands on
bring back to the house.
An English Nazareth
(In 1061, Lady Richeldis of Walsingham, in a series of visions, received instructions to build a replica of Christ’s home)
We – who have only our strength to sell
and so little here to be thankful for –
we know well she has never risen
from that embroidered footstool
where she embroiders her mornings.
Yet she has stood in His simple home,
she says, the woodshavings obvious
on the clay floor, the cramp, the cool.
And because she has power over us
to manufacture walls out of English
ground, to her specifications
(though she insists, not hers at all;
she’s only a witness to the original),
because of this her dream has weight.
Here, a slant of evening sun, the saw
still warm in the red-grained wood.
Here, the hammer’s shout on the nail
each time bursting and then dying off
as she passes a door out of Palestine.
In an ecstasy, at least three times –
though not moving one tailor’s inch
off that embroidered footstool
where we imagine her long fingers
fumbling over the detail in her lap –
we picture her there, tall and swaying
richly through Christ’s small house.
And no matter how vivid her dream,
local men build as we have always built:
English wood upon English earth.
The best we deliver is a mockery,
a cacked version of our own poor homes
(those shambles she’s never visited)
yet this is the one she will have us deck
with flowers, have us light, keep warm,
proof from rain, since this is the roof
under which she expects to dwell
long in grace, in that other real place.
While we – who have only ourselves to sell –
give praise to God for the gift of work.