The Ritual – by Susan Darlington


It was the night before the ritual
and Celandine couldn’t get any rest.
She perched on the end of her bed:
contracted the muscles in her feet
to make her toes curl into talons.

She used them to tear at the duvet,
eiderdown spilling out while she listened
to her mother’s downstairs preparations:
the harsh chirp of the whetstone
sharpening the family carving knife.

The metallic lullaby soothed her to sleep
and she woke to find she was trussed
on the kitchen table, the knotted hands
of her sisters, aunts and grandmothers
penning her to the scored wooden surface.

Her mother approached with the knife,
her feather headdress doubled in the metal,
and stood at the base of the counter.
In quick succession she sliced the blade
through the right foot and then the left.

Her stumps were tightly bound with dried grass
and she was gently nestled into a cage.
Paraded down streets, the cold probed her flesh
and the throb of blood in her ears
dulled the angry chatter of daybreak birds.

The pageant halted at the earth’s end.
A yellow gloved hand opened the cage
and as the voices of the mass soared in unity
she was lifted out, her clothes fluttering
in the wind that drove up the cliff side.

She looked across the crashing waves below
and tried to focus her mind on the horizon.
Because when she felt her mother’s push,
without any feet on which to land,
she knew she’d have to learn how to fly.



Susan Darlington is a freelance arts journalist and poet. Her debut collection, Under The Devil’s Moon, is available now through Penniless Press Publications

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