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Poem: Sally Read's 'The Crucifier'
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Poem: Sally Read's 'The Crucifier'

A Good Friday reading from the poet's latest collection, 'Dawn of this Hunger.'

British poet Sally Read had begun to question her lifelong atheism when she encountered a simple icon of Christ's face in a small Italian village church. In her memoir, "Night's Bright Darkness," Read recalls a strangely involuntarily impulse to pray: "I heard myself speak honestly and instinctively, with no belief or unbelief: 'If you're there, you have to help me.'"

What followed was an instantaneous, visceral experience of the presence of God.

"It was as if the Birth, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection were plunged into my being in one gorgeous blow — this is how it is to all of a sudden know the meaning of reality: the heart kick-started to sense its intrinsic architecture of logic, love and reason," she writes.

The following poem is from "Dawn of this Hunger," Read's fourth poetry collection and her first since her conversion. Align is grateful for the opportunity to share it on this Good Friday, courtesy of the author and Angelico Press.

— Matt Himes

The Crucifier

As I nailed him I deafened myself

to the shafting of steel through taut wires

of tendons, through flesh, past black pain

that snuffed out all thought. Did I look

into the bottomless eyes and whisper

I was sorry — or did all that come later?

Did I let my gaze feed on the faraway hills?

The women’s crescendo of cries

made me go faster: I hammered with duty

and tiredness, and waited as dark fell

on the cross. But in my dreams I’m still

hammering, deaf, as wind turns the world

over, and I hammer harder, knowing I forge

the one still point — like the solderer beating

the whitest hot metal, I’m crafting the fulcrum

where God’s melded with us in our unbending

rage — and if I could, in this chaos,

I would set all my children safe upon the crux

of that nail. O my God, how can I bear it:

chosen to be the necessary hurter?

I pray to what slipped away in the long grass

of our silence — that all I was flipped

to goodness on the head of a nail.

Sally Read is a poet, writer, and former psychiatric nurse based near Rome, Italy. She is the author of four collections of poetry and two memoirs and editor of the recent "100 Great Catholic Poems."

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