Clare Martin’s Crone glows equal parts magic, music, and muscle. Her lines are laced with ambergris and jasmine, ghosts and wolfbreath. I would call Martin’s art a gorgeous dream, but that would ignore the blood, bone, and heart that drive this book at its core. Crone is the creation of a poet at the height of her powers, in full voice, and mesmerizing. Immerse yourselves in these lines, friends. You’ll rise from their waters cleansed and awed.
— Jack B. Bedell author of No Brother, This Storm, Poet Laureate, State of Louisiana, 2017-2019
Excerpts from Crone
Here in the market,
children reap bones
of decayed mistresses.
A tongue, black as earth,
limps in the boy’s mouth.
Beggars in thin robes
brim with insatiate hunger
for a stone to suck.
The hunchback carries sacks
of blessed lime.
I was a ghostly infant;
breathless for milk –
A flaccid girl with no dowry.
My mother kindles joy
for the valuation in gold
she has been promised for me.
No life of foolishness.
No mother to inculcate grief.
My name – her tongue’s amnesia.
Crone appears with a shield of lightning
and rose-scented balm for this captive wrist.
Her red right hand incised
with a luminous eye.
I am now her possession.
Crone prepares the blackbirds
she gathered in nets.
Three carcasses on a plate.
All is gone, and I weep for nothing –
The nothing that is
and the nothing that was.
Too much to fear of a vagabond’s life,
I do not know if I will survive.
Rain brings the river to my mouth.
She told me to burn white candles to kindle inspiration
She told me to burn white candles to dissipate grief
She told me to burn white candles near a bowl of water
She told me to burn white candles to welcome ancestral spirits
She told me to burn white candles so I could be free
She told me to burn white candles at the birth of a child
She told me to burn white candles until the swallows return
She told me to burn white candles while lying with a lover
She told me to burn white candles for the wine is bitter
She told me to burn white candles to not forget the miscarried prayers
She told me to burn white candles – blazing wicks: an ablution of air
She told me to burn white candles to chart a nebula of horses
She told me to burn white candles as I hammer pain and anger
She told me to burn white candles to unmoor the salient heart
She is scantily-loved,
a rejected being of obtuse sex.
Clutching the solitary wish of freedom
redolent as an unleavened body.
Only through subjugation
will the reckoning culminate.
My winnowing begins.
Oh, tender one,
unravel your heart
into the radiance
I have prepared for you
This kiss is the bitterest sea
This milk is the permutation
of a mother’s malady
Sip it from earthen bowls
in a lush tent full of smoke
Once in my arms,
you will no longer fear
the retching years
There will be no more nights
lying with the bones
of desiccated lambs –
Cast off the tearless
children dying of thirst
Pick up your knife to sever
the moon from the sky!
She, whose vulva gesticulates
feverishly, is calling you
In my palm,
the heart collapses
from the weight
of lived pain
No longer entwined
in the body
I will set you free
forever and ever and ever
from the incalculable
price of blood.
Clare L. Martin’s Seek the Holy Dark was selected as the 2017 Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry by Yellow Flag Press. Her debut, Eating the Heart First, was published in 2012 by Press 53. Martin founded and edits the poetry magazine, MockingHeart Review. She lives in Louisiana with her husband and daughter.
Copyright © 2018 Clare L. Martin
Cover photograph from the collection of Lauren Leja.
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.
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