Three poems by Martyn Crucefix


Empty the bath

Late and quiet with all my keys
for the door, I hope you’ve not
yet been laid in your cot,
but find in the bathroom
a tubful of water, empty, well-
used and barely lukewarm

and to tell you the truth,
there’s the earth of my regret,
the little warmth the water
has, its tiny fractions
stolen from your playful heat

how it shows I’ve come too late
for the intimacy
of your straight-backed body
cut at the waist by cooling water,
those few gallons of sudsy wash
that cooled that much more slowly
for you being there

that now I let go, stir away
with both hands, think something
obvious, grasping what is gone. 


His first, its sudden grotesque
smashing up
through the trusted surface
of sleep, a scrabbling clutch
to be escaped from,
a tightening on leg and arm,
fastened to his vulnerable
heart, stomach, breath

– yet what manner of thing
is it that makes him burst
into real tears,
the bewildering touch of night,
inconsolable, though stroked
and held to, brought
to familiar light, our warmth

what nightmare, monstrous,
risen black-combed and dripping
from sleep must it be

– and the question enough
to rattle his father too,
as if such innocence and trust,
such never-known-hurt, nor
arm-raised, voice-raised, neglect
or loneliness
could find such ground for fear,
then could not he, or one
with hardly more reason

invent evil and ride
the monster back to the deep
and back still further to waking?


In the thickest of night,
before the altar of this crying
god, I kneel down

my head swollen with the hours
through which I have not moved,
thinking only, if only
I could propitiate
with a touch, with a la-la-la,
persuade my unsettled darling
to withdraw a while from the world

then I’d follow, his greatest
enthusiast, as I am
all day long, when his few pounds
belly-out a springy canvas chair
and I play music
thumping with rhythm and noise

and dance for his delight

for those waving arms
that I’m certain make answer
to my own, my stamp-stamp
and shake about the heart,
my hands up, hooray,
as spirits fly through the air,
infantile and optimistic

and too quickly gone,
especially now, kneeling here
in the dark – he turns, bursts.

All three poems first appeared in A Madder Ghost (Enitharmon, 1997)

Martyn Crucefix’s recent publications include The Time We Turned (Shearsman, 2014), A Hatfield Mass (Worple Press, 2014) and Daodejing – a new version in English (Enitharmon, 2016. Forthcoming are a new collection, The Lovely Disciplines (Seren, 2017), and chapbook, O. at the Edge of the Gorge (Guillemot Press, 2017).  Website and blog:

Sam Browne – by Angela France

Brasso-silky fingertips, a metal tang in the throat;
tiny circles on the buckle and tongue-tip between my teeth

to guard against marks on the leather. He smiles
at my effort, shows me how he buffs to perfection

and I watch him thread the strap under an epaulette,
fasten the buckles so it sits high on his waist,

his jacket smooth beneath it and close on his wide chest.
I breathe my dad as he straightens his cap over his eyes.

He takes as much care with a security guard’s uniform;
irons a shirt, makes knife-edge creases on trouser legs

with wet cloth under a sizzling iron, polishes each button
to mirror the sun. He reaches for the clothes brush

from a hook by the door, kept for rebel dog hairs,
turns and laughs loud to see his Sam Browne

a perfect fit on my teenage hips. I scowl, flounce
through the door, the belt snug and heavy on my pelvis.

I don’t remember when I saw it last,
tarnished and cracked for lack of army discipline;

Tan leather and the smell of metal polish bring it to mind
with broad shoulders, strong hands, a sad falling in.

First published in Hide (Nine Arches Press, 2013)



Angela France has had poems published in many of the leading journals and has been anthologised a number of times. Her publications include ‘Occupation’ (Ragged Raven Press, 2009), ‘Lessons in Mallemaroking’ (Nine Arches Press, 2011) and ‘Hide’  (Nine Arches Press, 2013).  Angela teaches creative writing at the University of Gloucestershire and in various community settings as well as working for a local charity. She runs a reading series in Cheltenham, ‘Buzzwords’.

Two poems by Matthew Stewart

Al anochecer

David’s still on the roundabout,
swaying joyfully up and down,
peeling paint with his fingernails.
This is a scruffy square – cheap bricks,
concrete benches and rusty bins –
but it’s always been his playground.
My eyes switching on, off and on,
I smile and wave as he circles.
Just one more go, Daddy, just one!
I sweep him up. His cheek strokes mine
with my every step till we reach
our bolted, shadow-ridden door.

At Chipiona

Waves are singing across the sand.
A metre in, we’re holding on,
our skin goose-bumped and thrilled by fear.
Here comes a biggie! you cry out.
My grip loosens and your voice sways 
for the first time, ready to plunge.



Matthew Stewart lives between West Sussex and Extremadura. He works in the Spanish wine trade and has published two pamphlets, both now sold out, with HappenStance Press. His first full collection is forthcoming in 2017 from Eyewear Publishing. You can read his blog at Rogue Strands

Two poems by Angi Holden


It was summer then and hot, July perhaps –
the sky bright and cloudless blue,
the tarmac sticky-soft beneath our feet.
And I was young, eight or maybe nine,
my hair not thick, no, never thick,
but densely black and loose about my shoulders.
No wonder then, that separated from their queen
the sun-dazed bees should be confused
and swarming round my head should settle.
‘Be still,’ my father said. ‘Be still and calm
and they’ll not sting.’
Even now I feel their tiny feet against my scalp,
the motor of their hum, the rhythm of their wings;
my father’s fingers firm and sure, gently parting
strands of hair and lifting free each bee.
Even now I hear the soothing cadence of his voice:
‘Be still and calm. Be still and calm.
Be still. Be calm.’

Her Father’s Hands

She remembered his hands, smooth, unwrinkled
even in mottled old age, his nails perfect, square cut.
Hands which had led and taught and steadied,
had planted seeds, cut dahlias and gathered pears,
had warmed nest-fallen chicks, now stilled.

A cousin called to mind her father’s written word,
exquisite letters, balanced on the page:
foreign correspondence airmailed tissue-thin,
documents signed off by rolled-gold Parker pen.

Neighbours recollected clashes with his obstinacy,
polite smiles and quiet condolences masking
memories of bloody-minded tussles: disputed hedges,
the deaf man’s radio turned up a touch too loud.

Weeks later, grieving, she recalled a lover telling her
that rainbows were illusionary. They are, he’d said,
merely a function of angles: from eye, to rain, to sun.
Move, and the drizzle prism splits different rays
from different droplets, creates another mirage.

Back then she’d argued, wanting the colours
to be real, strung across the sky for all to see.
But now she knew her lover had been right.
My rainbow, she thought, is mine alone,
a function of these angles: from eye, to rain, to sun.
Soothed, she recognised this singular view of him,
and slept, cradled by the memory of his hands.


Angi Holden is a freelance writer, whose work includes prizewinning adult and children’s poetry, short stories and flash fictions, published in online and print anthologies. She brings a wide range of personal experience to her writing, alongside a passion for lifelong learning, Her family are central to her life and her research into family history is a significant influence on her work. She was the winner of the inaugural Mother’s Milk Books Pamphlet Prize and her pamphlet, Spools of Thread will be published by Mother’s Milk Books in 2017. Twitter: @josephsyard

DIY – by Carole Bromley

Don’t fret about the damp patch
under the window; the baby won’t mind.

She’ll not bother her head
about the lagging in the roof-space.

The bare floorboards that bring
the sound of your footsteps

will do her just fine, that crack
in the ceiling will be her first pattern.

She won’t lose any sleep over
the missing loft ladder,

the crazed toilet bowl, the stubborn cold tap,
that creosote spilling through the fence.

Listen. Already she outgrows her prison,
drums her heels against its walls,

turns turtle, butts her head, blinks,
opens and closes her mouth.

Sit down, pick up your guitar
and sing to her.

First published in A Guided Tour of the Ice House (Smith/Doorstop). 

See also Carole Bromley’s poems ‘Dads’ and ‘South Bank and Eston Rotary Club, 1951’

Carole Bromley
lives in York and has two collections from Smith/Doorstop, the most recent being The Stonegate Devil which won the York Culture Award 2016. Her poem DIY was first published in the collection A Guided Tour of the Ice House. She has a collection of poems for children coming out in June 2017. Websit