Monday, March 08, 2010

Capturing a ritual

The following poem is taken from 'Poems on the Underground' :

Loving the Rituals

Loving the rituals that keep men close,
Nature created means for friends apart:

pen, paper, ink, the alphabet,
signs for the distant and disconsolate heart.

Palladas (4th Century AD)
trans. by Tony Harrison

The ritual of letter writing might not be as prevalent in our lives as it was, but we have other rituals, don't we? We might call them habits... although if there's something comforting in them, an aspect of the activity that gives us something - pleasure, delight, comfort - then perhaps we should refer to them as rituals.

At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I've got into the habit of picking up my cat in the mornings and looking out of the window with her. We look at birds, clouds, the neighbours leaving for work. I can feel her heartbeat under my palm. I feel very still.

I have a ritual of never leaving the house without kissing my husband goodbye.

When he worked as a professional entertainer and got home in the early hours of the morning I used to leave out a china mug, with the teabag and sugar already in it, and the kettle ready to boil.

I think we need rituals of some kind in our life, and while they can be religious or spiritual, I don't believe they necessarily have to be in order to connect us to ourselves or other people, or entities.

Can you capture a ritual in 4 lines? Well, perhaps 8 at the most : ) Aim for concentration.

I'll work on one myself.

Write well.
L x


Erin Lee Ware said...


The radio comes on—6:23 AM.
I roll over, seeking your body in the covers.
My tired eyes struggle to make out your sleeping face in the dark—
cheek, jaw, lips slightly parted.
I press my mouth to your warm skin to reaffirm what’s real—
you, me, and the morning.

martin cordrey said...

Kiss 1

We have had this habit for years
of kissing each other goodnight

now the skin on my lips has faded
whilst your touch has become light.

Kiss 2

We have had this habit for years
of kissing each other goodnight

now my passion has become tender
your reservations have taken flight

Glenn Buttkus said...


During my 25 minute commute
To the office each week day morning

I listen to one FM station habitually,
And I have chosen five rock groups

That I want to hear a song from.
If I get at least one,

My day will be rainbows; if none
I call the whole day flat-assed.

Glenn Buttkus March 2010

Cosmic Intervention

The Universe does not respect rituals.
My morning routine does not usually vary

Fifteen minutes on way or the other,
But when there seem to be unavoidable

Interventions, happenstances, and events,
I hear the angels laughing.

Glenn Buttkus March 2010

Stephen Fryer said...

I take a small polished stone to bed with me.
I sleep alone, with only my quartz.
Quartz is cold to begin with, but I warm her.
In the morning, she warms me.

Alyss Dye said...


Before anything,
pull up the blinds
open the curtains
unlock all doors.

Lu said...

Red Envelope

We stand face to face. Our eyes talk. Again, I press it
gently in your hand; you give me a most tender smile.

This intimacy, this mother-daughter relation all wrapped
in the red envelope grows stronger as years grow longer.

martin cordrey said...


I have habitually cleaned my teeth -
now that brand of paste has gone

still my teeth remain just as clean -
only the taste of my past is wrong

Keith Wallis said...

A kiss at bedtime
regardless of cost:
the sheets
a forbidden battleground.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Self Recognition

Our rituals of preparation for a slave day
are punctuated by the rituals of leisure

on the weekend. But we need to excel
at both in order to satiate our spirit
with the sustenance of true self.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Conjugal Petals

How sad to realize one day
after twenty years or more

with the same woman, that your
lovemaking has become more ritual

than passion—but perhaps this
recognition of repetitive groping

will reawaken the love flower so
that it can bloom yet again.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Sartorial Edicts

First the left leg, then the right—
the tie must be in a Windsor knot

with its tip right at the belt buckle,
and it must match the shirt

sweater vest and slacks, and remember
most of the time Frank Zappa was right:

“Brown shoes don’t make it.”

Glenn Buttkus said...


Strip it, clean it, oil it,
then click, slide, and pop

the lethal components back
into the killing machine.

“This is my rifle, this is my gun—
one is for killing and both are for fun.”

Lynne Rees said...

Quick note: I can only publish poems that respond directly to the prompt, and in this case it needs to be a poem that explores a ritual particular to one person. I don't like to be too proscriptive but I think ritual should refer to 'a procedure regularly followed' (Oxf. Dict.)

Thanks for all the posts so far. I'm enjoying reading them all.

Stephen Fryer said...

A procedure regularly followed. Why,
there are so many. Consider this,
toast on one side only. Use
honey. Tie
shoelaces. Make

martin cordey said...

every saturday morning
i hoover

the rest of the week dust
settles on our lives.

Cameron D. Mathews said...

Bearing Down the Bottle

I am so sick of you
as my daily routine.
Waking up with my own fingerprints
framed frozen along your bottled body
breaks this alcoholic heart of mine.
You come grinning out of the freezer.
Knowing what I know,
I grab you by your fragile neck,
drink and dive right back down
into my own
fucked up habit.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Love Dog

Your spouse needs to hear
that you love her, even it

others think it’s corny;
that good-night kiss and

that good morning embrace
are essential as breathing

to that thumping in your chest
that skips when she smiles.

Glenn Buttkus March 2010

Glenn Buttkus said...

Thank You, Jesus

My beautiful wife is from Texas—
a minister’s daughter,

and even though she acknowledges my
dislike of religious ritual and dogma,

still we say Grace over our groceries;
glad to have food when many do not,

happy to hold hands momentarily
before the chicken fried steak usurps all.

Glenn Buttkus March 2010

Lynne Rees said...

Again - thank you for the enthusiastic response.

@ Erin - 'Awakening' - gentle and specific. Well captured. You might want to play around with some line breaks - sometimes lines that can be read 'as one', where two halves of a line inform each other, can be interesting. Example:

seeking your body in the covers.My tired eyes

as one line nakes for an interesting line in itself. And perhaps '6.23am' would make a good title too?

@ Martin - Kiss 1 and 2 - two very different second halves that make very different poems. I think I prefer the 2nd version, maybe because I can't 'see/feel' the image of fading skin on lips?

@ Glen - Tunes & Cosmic Intervention - I wonder if both of these might be more effective laid out as prose poems? The linebreaks, for me, are drawing attention to the language, as line breaks should in verse... but the language here has a strong prose feel to it so that attention creates a 'chopped up prose effect'. In a block the sentences would flow into each other and the reader's attention wouldn't be distracted by ends of lines, and expecting those ends to have more of a function. If that makes sense? : )

@ Stephen Fryer - simple and suggestive, Stephen. I wonder if the stone should be personnified right from the beginning, rather than just in the two last lines?

@ Alyss - Ritual - I love this! You capture such a strong feeling of opening up to the world, to possibilities. Lovely poem, Alyss.

@ Lu - Red Envelope - mysterious but there's enough of the 'known' to see into the scene. I like it. You've probably already played with line breaks... how does it work with shorter lines, that might slow it down a little?

More comments to follow soon. : )

Lynne Rees said...

@ Martin - cleansed - I love your last line! Maybe the rest of the poem allowed you to find this and the real poem now needs to be built around it?

@ Keith - a kiss at bedtime - Hmmmm... I like the ideas behind this... but perhaps the poem is too understated? Perhaps it's holding back too much information? It's good to have questions after reading a poem, but I also like to feel I have some answered. But sometimes, a title can add the key that an understated poem needs.

@ Glen - Self Recognition - this feels much more like aphorism than poetry. Perhaps it's too directly stated? Needs to be more oblique?

@ Glen - Conjugal Petals - once again I feel this could be more oblique. Can you let the reader work out what to feel/think rather than directly stating what the poet thinks/feels? Perhaps 'show' a little more, and tell less?

@ Glen - Sartorial Edicts - I really like how this poem opens and develops, the precision of the items of clothing, but the end lands it too harshly. Perhaps too directly stated again? The end of a poem is one of the most difficult parts - a closure that leaves some sense of 'opening' at the same time. Perhaps I'll post a prompt on 'closing' poems.

@ Glen - Lucille - I think I must be missing the reference between the title and the gun image? I did wonder why the final couplet changes 'voice' with the quotation marks. Is the poem long enough to sustain two voices?

@ Stephen F - a procedure regularly followed - I think you have something with the last five lines:

Consider this,
toast on one side only. Use
honey. Tie
shoelaces. Make

It probably needs something else, but not much.

@ Martin - every saturday morning - there doesn't seem to be quite enough here. The two halves are effectively balanced but I wasn't surprised in any way by the final couplet. But I do think that couplet is worth keeping.

@ Cameron - Bearing down the Bottle - the imagery is so vivid and suggestive that you might not need to be so direct in places, e.g. alcoholic, fucked-up habit. And I wonder how this poem would look if you cut the first two and the last two lines? I quite like it without the directly stated opening and closure.

I'll be back with another prompt in a few days.
L x

Lynne Rees said...

2 final comments for Glen:

1. Thank You, Jesus - I'm thinking 'prose poem' again when I read this. And I like the humour in the last line.

2. Love Dog - the line breaks in this work well for me. I like the hesitations they create, that feel appropriate for what is being said. Nice one.

Anonymous said...

Best Friend

We always start with Mrs
finish with lots of love
not pen to paper
but thumb to text
by any means.

Eileen Carney Hulme

Lu said...

->how does it work with shorter lines, that might slow it down a little?

Thanks Lynne, I'll play around with it. Good thought.


Lane Savant said...

My freeze-dried life.

A spoonful and water makes Thursday,
A spoonful and water makes Friday,

It's easy.

Lynne Rees said...


@ Eileen - Best Friend - I suppose you could address a best friend as 'Mrs', but I did have a problem connecting the title to the poem... unless (!) the phone is the best friend? I like the opening two lines but the last two feel two directly stated, too telling, perhaps?

@ Lane - My freeze-dried life - now why does this little poem make me laugh and feel rather scared at the same time?! Can/could a life be reduced to such emptiness, such absence? And the words 'it's easy' are packed with irony, for me. I suppose it could be an SF poem, a chilling look at some future existence, but it can also work as a metaphor for a life that's not lived, a life wasted. It's very intriguing... and look, I've used far more words talking about it than there are in the poem. That's a good sign : )

y said...

mondays through fridays, unlock
the office, beeline to the
my fingers extract the
password with no
recollection, my mind
is hanging up the coat,
putting the purse away