The lovely disciplines
See Ginny’s son and Ginny’s daughter-in-law
rest useless hands on the raised bed-rail
stare down to where Ginny writhes and squirms
her slender left arm reaching O so high
while her bare right calf lies crooked across
the cold retaining bar as lucky Jane all day
scuts with her bird-like legs folded under
to clear the turning wheels of her chair
while she roams the ward her working shoulders
pump each shove as if she’d tear herself clear
of the purple seat while Michaela’s throat
goes sucking great holes in the hospital air
and rubs itself raw till she’s like a bull-seal
honking on a distant shore she may have once
defended open-eyed though no-one here
believes Michaela will stir—no brighter hope
any more for Linda where she settles quiet
in her purple dressing-gown beside her bed
neat as a serviette her eyes fixed on a man
from her V of hands while he stares at her
from his V of hands the woman who he moved
for years coterminous with who now prefers
distance and darkness and being dumb . . .
O no more those lovely disciplines
we reassure ourselves it’s human to pursue
and no more those sweet acts of will
we treasure briefly or we take for granted
consoling ourselves that we will be spared
the horror of long blue rooms like these—
the slack and supine and all the twaddle
of decay and we persuade ourselves
that the truth need not be so bleak
as it seems for these who hold the floor today
who turn barely more than one leaf turns
in being blown to the gutter who seem
as nothing to themselves if more to others
who come with names they cannot let go
murmuring Ginny Michaela darling Linda Jane
Martyn Crucefix has won numerous prizes including a major Eric Gregory award and a Hawthornden Fellowship. He has published 5 collections, including An English Nazareth (Enitharmon, 2004) and Hurt (Enitharmon, 2010). His translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies was shortlisted for the 2007 Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation and hailed as “unlikely to be bettered for very many years” (Magma). His translation of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus was published in 2012. Information can be found at Poetrypf also see Enitharmon.
5 thoughts on “Featured Poet: Martyn Crucefix”
You don’t spare us with this poem. You give us a shake. Thank you. Love the word ‘coterminous’ which is new to me. Also read and enjoyed your “Calling in the dark” at the PF site.
Many thanks – coterminous is a word i think I borrowed from the great late Seamus Heaney. But it seemed the only right one here.
Very thoughtful and insightful. Many thanks, Martyn.
Heartbreakingly vivid. I remember reading this before, not sure where, was it in a magazine recently?
Thanks Robin – it won 3rd prize in the recent Kent and Sussex competition – so it must have been connected with that i think.