Poem – Ritual Roots (By David Russell)

Ritual Roots

Trains: Stringing, ringing, lifting,

Breathing meringues, with pores distended

at the termini


Contraction is needed for piercing of bars

And holing of tickets.


The breaking of one deadlock only

Institutes another, more firm,

In the hand and in the basket.


More futile by far than any old bird’s weak flight

Through a Church, a hall or waiting room –

The bird drags no shit-stream

Through that other door


That bird escaped the drag

Of fuel oil upon its wings,

Spared all cog-driven struldbruggery


While the train stops at the tiny halt





Neolith-daubed, unused pioneer-line

Goes over the moors,

Shoring up the gorse;


Uprooted bluebells

Flaunting the purity of their stalk-ends;

They never want for the yellow tops

That would have staunched life’s flow

To further a legend they did not desire.


So long before the human ‘birds’ eye view’

Of aircraft

They had straight paths

But now small boys try to feel for those submerged paths

With toy gliders

Letting them off the tow-thread at the fifth parallel

The hinterland where they flew straight,

Or, rudders primed flew purely curved

Neither rising nor falling.


Unbalanced in themselves, they strained

To emulate old parallels, sailing in chalices,

Echoing the droppings

Of a sacreligious peace-pigeon


Echoes my their acolytes, making heavy their point

With twisted rubber motors

In terror of obstructive dog-kites, bare teeth

White – rootless – white


White as the stringy horse of Uffington

That abraded chalk protector

Upon the ribbed bosom–green around;

Cut chalk-string made a loop of security

Around the central stick

Of his magic, wishing eye.


All devotees of this monument

Made secret wishes

Gazing at that flat eye of blistered chalk

To be divulged to no-one


Directions are to be taken from hieroglyphs

On a brass shield of indeterminate date

Purified by a soiled cloth


Settling light is sucked down into it

Sight-flour yeast-breathed perception

Particles thickened to choke all comers


Aircraft designers must have been inspired

By the vision of their product as a minute speck

At maximum height,

Seen from ground level


The superjet designers had several thousand feet

Of altitude coiled up inside themselves;

They suffered abrasive cuts

So small, but with all the force

Of the pitiless desert

Just as a surgeon’s knife compresses the essence

Of some whole, tissue-flaking creature.


Time, tabulated on stelae, walls and pillars,

Onion-time in membrane squares,

Veils for some decent process,

Tantalising to every new year’s nakedness

Thick cardboard

Under and over veil-protector.


The makers of the stelae chipped in

To what they wanted,

Raw skins: it was good to melt them

When they could be packed so tightly.

When they are packed, let them be stacked

Rear end upwards

Only to be cornered as the approach

Their apexes, for the time being.


Time, being, ran to the sea-shore,

Fumbling for submarine coal-seams,

Sandwiched and juicy;

Lust-looking thing changing

From all other layers.


Layered ex-top, discolouring its crushers,

Cause for some old aggressor –

There: skin and dust for you;

Leave the skins flapping, and wash out

Your light blue –


You use paper for your skins,

Rolled-up, disposable versions

Of what the trees did so long ago,

Functioning for complete incisions,

At yet another remove from coal


Removed but akin.


Try a little synthesis; put the ocean

Where some solid things have been

And sunk

Empty the superfluous coal into it

(Whilst sparing a pang of regret

For the jettisoning of so much utility)

Spread  out your net like a membrane

Flapping, capping ooze-tincture and depth-go –


Coupled traffic-light bottom,

With an extra tinge of excluded blue;

The work of your contrived tide does not look like

Your calendar sheet, being discarded

At the end of every month.


The manufactured tide is humidity-graded, piled,

Distilled of its residue, skimmed, cream-capped

Reversed on its own rollers

To contradict and paralyse its direction.


Even the sand may look into you like water

If water is very far away

Though bigger eyes may paper it up again,

And make you love cardboard,

Love monopolized leaf covers yet more.


Many miles I walked along that shore,

Hoping that the outer edge of that black membrane

Would lunge back into my depths,

To the bottom of the cavernous pit

Leaving a consistent left-right, and go-colour

Right up to where a yellow zone started.


The calendar maker cannot siphon off grafted brain-jelly

Carvers of stelae only cut rims;

A neutral shape cloaks the interior quite adequately.




I am cut in two by my forward leaps,

Hounded by the hitch-hiker’s magnet

The hooked belly-pincer within me

Jaws, compasses, screws –

Stela-threads cut into me

To regulate my movements,

Saluting forlorn hopes.


My hand plumbs attempted suicide

My ruler makes a parallel attempt

To halt on touching the membrane




One desperate soul

Reached for a pneumatic drill,

Rutted his piece of road,

Sweated out water

While flattening his death-furrow.


So now that stretch of road is a dead entity,

A monument to wasted effort.

Here there is no gloss of top-use

Planners an navies are synthesized

In nothingness.


The plumbing arrow hit its mark

Then spread out like a film

Coagulate was the mass beneath that film

Tacky was thought-fibre dualism.


Intervals of roads, water, glass and slots.


Hole of the prying hand – backwards

As the tar was glossed over

Jagged as an essential lump of gravel


A tip for the next administrative arrow.


Author Bio:

David Russell was born in 1940. Resident in the UK. Writer of poetry, literary criticism, speculative fiction and romance. Main poetry collection Prickling Counterpoints (1998); poems published in online International Times. Main speculative works High Wired On (2002); Rock Bottom (2005). Translation of Spanish epic La Araucana, Amazon 2013. Romances: Self’s Blossom; Explorations; Further Explorations; Therapy Rapture; Darlene, An Ecstatic Rendezvous (all pub Extasy (Devine Destinies). Singer-songwriter/guitarist. Main CD albums Bacteria Shrapnel and Kaleidoscope Concentrate. Many tracks on You Tube.


This poem is part of the complete collection; Speculum: Collected Poetry and Prose, by David Russell.

View or Download the complete collection here in PDF format.

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