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:

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