Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Holy Tongue

I was listening to some of the soul-singing poems of Milosz, at a lecture in the British Library.

On my journey there, I had been wandering through the solitude of the crowded underground, singing various Hebrew songs from the melodic Rabbi Shlomo.

Later, during the panel discussion, I heard one of the speakers discount the possibility of the "liturgical voice" in British contemporary poetry. Seemingly it was only allowed for Poles and People Not of British origin!

And I thought - What makes this eminent (and influential) speaker so certain that no one in Britain could engage with the 'liturgical voice'? What makes him assume that transcendence is only safe abroad?

It's odd, I think and alarming - the defensive hegemony of the secular voice, that claims to be so partial to a tolerance for all voices - but leaps back in indignation at the merest hint of the truly Other, when it surfaces in its own home culture.

Milosz, I'm certain would have had plenty to say on such a subject as that.

I wrote this poem, prior to the comment, whilst sitting in the audience, musing.

Only the words of the Holy Tongue
Arise from my being with fire,
With the fire that cleanses the thorn grove,
The intimate enmities of intractable brambles.

These are the words that take thorns from the flesh
Transform them to ash in the wind.

These are the words of Divine Origin
That bear not the weight of unkempt compromises.
This Leshon Kadosh that I know so few leaves of
Leaves that might be for the healing of nations.

But drenched in the water of Baptism is this Holy Fire abashed?

Ah no, it springs up in a Kindred Element,
Takes sting from bee and poison from scorpion
It declares its allegiance with Desire.

A Holiness no word can capture, express, contain or even encounter
It calls forth the ecstasy of awe-filled emptiness
Prepares me for the plenitude of receiving.

Sarah de Nordwall October 3rd 2011

Sunday, 11 September 2011

9/11 the wraith between us

I came across this picture in the New York City Library.

It pulled me towards its absolute vulnerability
dumbfounded in the stillness of its grief

I waited like the seated man
till understanding might fill up the missing matter
of our spirits' thinness unto immobility

I saw the artist came from Pakistan
Her theme was one of reconstruction, so the words beside it said.

She was a US citizen
and we stood beside the dead.

and consubstantial with a memory
no thought can erase
this wraith between us
stops and searches
every easy phrase.

Sarah de Nordwall 11th September 2011
10th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers in NYC

The artist of the picture is Pakistani born Huma Bhabha, who made this image in response to her experience of unfinished foundations of buildings in her native Karachi.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

of drunken animals and commercial opportunities

Googling round the internet, looking for information on the Iranian film 'The Apple', for a film season I was planning, I came across that delightful news story from yesterday's CNN that you may have seen in the Metro:

"Drunken moose finds itself stuck up a Swedish apple tree", and though I know it's the season for funny drunken-on-fermented-fruit animal stories, this really is the funniest I've read. Not the least because of the footnote about Johansson's enterprising 11 yr old son:

'Johansson's son, Gustav, who is about to turn 11, made sure to take lots of pictures of the ordeal.

"He is saving up to buy a PlayStation so he thought he would take pictures that he could sell," Johansson said.

CNN purchased three of Gustav's pictures

Which goes to show that there's nothing wasted in this world, if you've an eye for an opportunity, even if it takes the form of a drunken moose up your tree.

Well done, son of Johansson; enjoy your playstation, thank the Moose and carry on 'creating a way'.

When dawn came the day after it was freed from the tree, the moose had not yet left.

"When I went out for the newspaper, it was still laying there on the ground, sleeping. By the time I left for work, it was walking around the neighbor's yard on very shaky legs." Johansson said.

"Today the moose came back and walked around the yard," he added. "I think it likes it here

That moose keeps amusing me, trotting round its new home in Sweden, as I tootle around doing my filing in Finchley. The power of the tale lives on, and enhances the everyday things.

And I guess that's one reason why people like a bard in the house. It can make a special occasion even more memorable and turn an ordinary day into a surprising one.

It sometimes surprises me, actually, when I perform in different venues and businesses, how universally applicable a poem or a tale can be.

There was Time Management International, who gave a standing ovation, the National Occupational Therapy Managers Conference, who had wondered what Change Mangement had to do with poetry till they realised that poetry is about dealing with life and there was a meeting at the House of Lords, after which Lord Brennan kindly invited me to dinner in The House and the UN rapporteur incorporated one of my points into a her final UN report. At least I like to think so!

So I'm encouraging ambitious businesses and educational initiatives to get excited and book a bardic presence for their conference, party or classroom within the coming autumnal weeks, especially since National Poetry Day draws nigh on October 6th.

The value of a good tale lives on in the hearts of the hearers, as the Swedish moose lives on in Finchley North.

When Tom Giannini architects held an Open House Party with bard and flamenco guitarist, to share the quirky and memorable nature of their design solutions, they were thrilled with the way the thank-you letters and the business opportunities came in after the party and all of them mentioned the Bard.

So don't miss an opportunity
In or out of a tree
to enjoy yourself and be memorable
for all the right reasons!

Prices start for as little as £300

Call 07849 641 899
and make the bard make the difference
to your inspiring goals.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Haikus for Katy (19th April 1972- 12th July 2011)

You wrote a haiku
For me when I went away.
It speaks to me now:

'Jerusalem Ho!
Adventure calls you Eastwards
Not goodbye, farewell

And now you go East
To the Great Jerusalem.
Glory, colour, light

And joy embrace you
Who brought so much of all these
to those who love you.

A tender stream of kindness
And humility

But gravitas too
In the way you paint the world
With a lover's eye

A glance of delight
A gaze of contemplation
And finesse that stills.

Katy, a star is
Missing from amongst us, but
You shine brighter now.

Sarah de Nordwall

St Paul's Onslow Square 21st July 2011
The celebration of Katy's wonderful life

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

The tomb was empty of all but light

And the sunshine blessed the opening in the roof of the tomb
Like a messenger from a brighter world.

And in the absence of everyone else
Both the living and the dead

Whose endless needs and questions had been oppressing me darkly
With the weight of their centuries of unresolvable agonies

They were suddenly present.

They were there

They has blossomed instantaneously into being

As simple as sunflowers

The Five Words

For the feeding of seven times seventy thousand
And power was in them
And I knew it then

“Love is stronger than death”

Let’s hear it again!

Love Is Stronger Than Death




Sarah de Nordwall April 1999

Monday, 25 April 2011

A Feast for Easter

When God speaks welcome
Into an aching heart - there
Heaven has come home.

When water is poured
On tired hands that long for touch
There Love has spoken.

When philosophy
Fails and wealth closes the heart
God's joy awakens.

See, He is Risen.
His people are not alone.
You are invited

To the Feast.

Sarah de Nordwall April 2007

Friday, 22 April 2011

SOM* - I close my mouth

SOM – I close my mouth
As the wraiths pass over the house
Tearing at the rooftiles with malicious glee.

I allow them no entrance
I have learnt of the desert deaths.

I stand as the storm rages
And the land is wildly purified

I stand and you have departed.

I breathe as the wind pales.

"He split the rocks
And gave them drink
As though from limitless depths
And they abandoned Him."

You split my thought from my desire
And make me thirst
As though from limitless depths
And still I do not abandon you.

You are an image of a man who lives
In the showroom of imagination’s window
Yet I choose you over Him.

I stoop to drink from the barren ground.

Can these ghostly waters flee?

"At your reproof the waters fled
At the voice of your thunder
They sped away
Flowing over mountains and
Down the valley
To the place that you had fixed"

But what of this storm that arises in me,
Perfect in unreality?

Who has power over the non-existing things?

They tear through the trees
And bend the trunks towards the
Emptying shore.

"Ignorant and uncomprehending
They wander in darkness
While the foundations of the
World are tottering"

I close my mouth – SOM
For I fear the judgement of God.

"He satisfied their cravings in the desert
But their cravings were still upon them.
The food was still in their mouths
When the wrath of God descended

When the wrath of God attacked them,
Slaughtering their strong men
Laying low the flower of Israel"

SOM – I close my mouth
As the wraiths pass over the house
Tearing at the rooftiles with malicious glee.

I allow them no entrance
I have learnt of the desert deaths
And I stand as the storm rages
And the land is wildly purified.

And You have departed.

Sarah de Nordwall 2011

In Hebrew the word 'Som' means to close the mouth, ie to fast
"He split the rocks.." Psalm 78 v 15 to 17

Friday, 15 April 2011

All the suffering

All the suffering
All of it
Will come to an

The flowers bright with pink
And daisies white with joyful innocence

Push up
Thrust forth
With excellent urgency

Towards the Spring
To Easter tide

And all their roots are
Gripped with ecstasy.

All the suffering
All of it
Will come to an

And not just
An ending

But a fulfilment
A purposeful encounter

With the Victory of pain’s offering
The Victory of love’s waiting
The Victory of self-giving

To the Glory of Joy
The Joy of Glory

All of it
Can you believe it?

Will come at last to
See its own fulfilment

And its beauty

Radiant and dancing

At last.

5th February 2009

There are a few places that I have encountered where joy and suffering seem to be intimately present and connected - united through love - and the dignity and the sheer beauty of that combination are radiant.

Here is an example captured fantastically I think on a short film made by one of the bards of the bard school, Martin Earle who is living in L'Arche in France with a community of people, some of whom have particular special needs. I defy you not to dance or smile all the way through and shake your head and wonder at things... Here is Le Pudding de L'Arche..

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

for the love of a Nazi tea service

For the love of a Nazi tea service
I hear he gave a large slice
Of his barrister’s fee

And suddenly I see him
Hastening his tailored step
To bring the rustling paper package home

At last, to place its treasured contents
On the table and unwrap an empire
Of porcelain, the most expensive thing he owns.

The elegance is simple
White, smooth, soft under the fingertips.
A small black circle holds each swastika intact

And after reverent lifting out and cleaning
Cup by cup so gently, breath held,
Not to mark or chip, or God forbid to drop
A single item of the perfect set,

He thinks, how could he have resisted
The silver teaspoon, tenderly engraved
Worth thousands since its lineage could be traced
Right back to Himmler’s breakfast tray?

But one day he assures himself
The spoon will find its way
Into his soft boiled egg

Till blackened with the sulphurous yolk
It can evoke his vision of the Volk

As uniformed in black like him
Their lips would close on branded rim
Where stands reversed the sign of life..
He reaches for the butterknife.

With tea, his toast becomes the host
His mind’s communion is engrossed
In bodies as the blood of millions
Surges under dark Dominions
Who have ruled both lives and fates
While resting cake forks on their plates.

For carnage is a primal vice.
But tastes much fuller
When it’s nice.

Part II

For the love of a Nazi tea service
I hear he gave a large slice
Of his barrister’s fee.

But here I see him
Labouring his step
To bring his bundled papers into court

On time, to share its dismal contents
At the bar and there unfold a history
Of subterfuge, the only thing he knows.

The argument is simple
Bright and smooth, upheld by fingerprints
The clear signs leave a trail of undisputed fact.

A gangland villain, stolen car and gun
Has been out robbing art and having fun
And in his garage Marilyn Monroe
And Superman in Glitter, in a row
Worth thousands for the prints can all be traced right back to Andy Warhol’s studio.

One day he’d overreached himself
And sits inside the dock
Attempting to disclaim all ownership

The barrister assures the court
The man will find his way
Into a nice safe cell

His antecedents marr his name too well.

The public need protection from such deeds
Such actions were not prompted by his needs.

It’s clear to see from his demeanour
He could not look any meaner

The casting person from the Bill
Could find no face
More apt to kill.

The judge and jury are agreed
The crime is proved and urged by greed
The defendant will be finally seen
On the day that follows
the birthday of the Queen.

Committal for sentence is duly set
And all is well and targets met.

For the love of a Nazi tea service
I hear he gave a large slice
Of his barrister’s fee.

Sarah de Nordwall May 5th 2004

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

the golden thread

Bring me the scissors and the golden thread
The pins of silver and white
And I will weave a cloth of stars
To wrap you in tonight.

For love creates a word in me
That breathes in empty rooms
And now the veil of absence blows
And here the iris blooms.

My tears distilled in Venetian glass
As deep as the midnight hour,
I wait to pour on your feet with joy
As you come in silent power.

Bring me the scissors and the golden thread
The pins of silver and white
And I will weave a cloth of stars
To wrap you in tonight.

Sarah de Nordwall April 9th 2005

because of reading John Betjeman

Last night I walked through Brixton Station dead on midnight.
The digital clock turned zero.

I waited just to watch the 1 appear..
The zeros didn’t budge.

The 4 noughts stood unmoving in a row.

The station strangely empty,
I suddenly looked round
And had a foolish and a horrid fear that maybe
This was it,
My time was up

4 zeros now the pin number
To heaven or to hell.

4 numbers I would never now forget
and never need a memory for again;

My chances over and my actions past,
no time left now for action or regret.

So, Brixton station was my unexpected getting off
from all the movement and the pain,
the fulsome possibility
life had been.

Beyond familiar station steps,
I would no longer find the Brixton road
But judgement and eternity ahead.

Sarah de Nordwall October 2005

Saturday, 19 March 2011

be my guest

Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, Justice.
My four strong sisters
Thank you for your aid.
But now, I ask you with a simple grace
To stop and sit down at the Sabbath Gate.

Put down your tools
And breathe before you enter
For something greater than yourselves is here.

And it is He who will refresh you
He who will provide
He who will require no payment
He who will preside.

Fortitude, courageous heart
Your rest is here prepared
And Prudence, all your careful plans
So wise, now let them ride.

Temperance, here is your command;
Three feasts you must enjoy, desire!
Then taste my gift for Justice
Which will draw us near the fire:
Mercy, vintage from the vine of grace
Within this ecstasy find your place.

Let me be the fresh creation
Let me now create in you
Let me be the Lord Sabaoth
Joy is all there is to do!

In this time, you feast in Holiness.
Work, Production, let them be
Here we are now at the Centre
I in You and you in Me.

Rest, Spontaneity, Festival, Mercy,
Kiss your sisters, lest they pine.
Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, Justice
We’ve revived you, just in Time.

Sarah de Nordwall
Jerusalem June 2010

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Poem Makers and Change Makers

The poem maker builds a world in her head
And in that world we dream
The change maker builds a world in her head
And in that world we live

The poem maker lives in the change makers world
But the change maker dreams in the poem makers world

The poem maker builds a world in her head
And in that world we dream.
But the change maker dreams in the poem makers world
And in that world she builds.

Sarah de Nordwall 2003

Tonight I've been commissioned by 'The Family Business' to perform some poems to contribute to the discussions of a group of business people in Reading, seeking to serve their community more potently through their calling to business, and to nurturing businesses.

Beauty, imagination, aspiration. We're all in this together.

Before the dawn - a haiku cluster in the Israeli airport

A pot of Black Death;
The Marmite is checked for bombs
In security.

The lime green seating
In the overpriced cafe
Resists aesthetics

But here come locals!
Man: in red feather boa
Woman: in gold horns.

Welcome to Israel
Where the door to Holiness
Swings on its hinges.

Sarah de Nordwall March 1st 2010

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Wall to Wall

From the Hakotel*
To the wall of separation**
Is a distance of about 1 mile.

At the Western Wall
The Divine Presence never departs
And Adam himself was created.

Here, 9 metres of concrete
Stagger for 165 Kilometres
And the pain of powerless anguish
Stops the heart of humanity.

There is writing on the wall,
This time not emerging from an angel’s hand
Interpreted by Daniel
But rather from a spray can or two
To make of what you will.

“Mene Mene Tekel and Parsin”,
wrote the angel;
You have been weighed in the
Balance and found wanting,
Your kingdom will be given
To the Medes and the Persians.

“This wall is a shame on the
Jewish People, My People”
wrote the spray can;
A Kingdom divided against
itself cannot stand.

From the Wall of Lamentation
To the wall of lamentation
Is a distance of about 1 mile,
3000 years
And a second’s thought

Destroy this Temple
And I will rebuild it
In 3 days. The children will
Be restored to the fathers.

Destroy this wall
And fathers will be restored
To their children.
In how many days?

*The Western Wall
** The 165km of wall (twice as high as the Berlin wall) that the Israeli government has built in order to protect people from suicide bombers. The social implications have been immense and the wall is extremely contravertial. Some Israelis claim that the wall has brought an end to death through suicide bombings, whilst Palestinians and many Jews claim that the wall has brought unnecessary suffering to the Palestinian people and deprived many of them of a living and of access to work. Many have never been able to see the world beyond the wall.

After spending some time in Israel, I found it impossible to hold any opinion without hearing the opposite opinion clamouring for a hearing in my mind. I wrote poems that I could instantly contradict, but I've let them stand - to hold their own resonance.

Who can say when a defensive wall is the answer and when taking it down becomes not a risk but a necessity?

In my own life I've recently experienced various people putting up defensive walls in order to lock out pain.

But what one can't help noticing, is that those walls tend rather to lock the pain in, and shut life out.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Toe varnish is a political alternative

You come from Vietnam,
And you painted my toes
With indefatigable devotion.

You didn’t even take a lunch break.
I think you’re used to back breaking work
And you were willing to sacrifice your rest
For my relaxation.
But you made me think,

As I flicked through my copy of George Monbiot
And assessed the points he made on the urgent need for the democratisation of global governance.

And you asked me suddenly what colour I would like.

I was startled back into your reality..

'Ah yes! Gold or Red, which should it be?'

I turned my mind from the World Bank and the Marxist alternatives
And pondered the need for colourful toes.

We decided that the gold,
Although promising on the shelf,
Looked bland once applied
And that the red,
Although enticing in the bottle
Was in fact too fierce and made one look a little past it.

So we settle on a wonderful compromise;
A startling pink.

It looks great!

Just the thing in fact;
Youthful, vibrant, with a touch of classless oriental audacity.

Just out of an old habit, I check the name of the colour
And am stunned

'Indefatigable Devotion', by Jade

Indefatigable Devotion!
The colour in which I now stand,
The standard to which I now hold firm,
By toe-varnished anointing.

I put the George Monbiot and its critique of anarchy into my bag
And you give me a little smile, as I hand you the tip;
Nothing really as the price for my new shining stature.

I love shops, in which,
As if by magic,
The essential suddenly appears.

© Sarah de Nordwall July 2003

there is a moment

There is a moment
When we let go of the balloons
Those small and tugging desires
That we hope will lift us off the ground
And away from the earth
But are not quite
Up to the job.

But one day
The sky so blue
We want to see them colouring the heavens
Reflecting the Spring sun in the glistening air
And away they go..

And we are not marooned.

Though earth-bound
We enjoy delight
On the rich earth.

Sarah de Nordwall Lent 2011

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

You are so free

Jesus, you are so free
Freer than the whole universe
Freer than the multiverse
Through which you stroll before morning coffee
And in that part of the universe
That births 32 suns a second
You stretch and yawn and say "Nice work!..
I knew you'd like that" and we both smile.

Jesus, you are so free
That you can choose to be bound
Without reduction
And become a doorway.

For the sheer immensity of all your freedom,
Nothing can contain but by Your choice.
And so, like coal compressed to diamonds
Your smallness makes a window out of matter
And blackest darkness
Yields the light of heaven.

You are so free.

Sarah de Nordwall Lent 2011

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

an art for lent

You cannot utter something,
Speak or draw it,
Unless somewhere in your being
You have given your consent;
Allowed this now experience to enter
And come up through the doorway of your soul
Into the world of light.

But do not get me wrong
I don’t say that your conscious mind must know it
But somewhere in the musical menagerie of your soul
This tune has wound its way among the trees
And wishes to be welcomed to the band.

And so you speak, you sing, you draw, you sculpt
And into consciousness the wood comes singing,

But the tune is wild
What then becomes your work?

To tame the wood?
Flush out the flurry of the wild terrors?

To train the emerging creatures as they come into the light
Or let them dance and teach you what they know?

How wise can the wild things be?

Or yet to work oblivious of the tearings,
Deaf to the taunting,
Proud in the face of strangeness and disgust?
I think not.

Let them all come in!

Whoever they are.

The light is fit for battle
And is known by its power to love
To see though pain
Receiving it deep into itself
Until the wood and all its creatures
Come to meet the Spring.

Happy Lent!

Sarah de Nordwall Mardi Gras 2011

Friday, 4 March 2011

You make me

I like you because you make me feel liked
I don't like you because I know you
I don't know you
I don't see you
I see only that you like me
And that I like.

I like you because you make me feel pleasing
So I'll do what it takes to please you
Whether I like it or not
And I don't
In fact it hurts me
But not as much as the fact that you might not like me
If I don't.

I'm worried that you don't seem to talk to me
As much as you did.
I need to know what you need
I plead
Can't you see
How you make me
So unhappy.

Sarah de Nordwall 2002

Thursday, 3 March 2011

I must leave you

I must leave you
By the fountain
By the garden's inner wall
I shall close the door behind me
So I cannot hear you call.

I look towards the mountain
Though the mountain looks so far
You are so much further from me
Sitting where you are.

I must leave you
By the fountain
By the garden's inner wall
I shall close the door behind me
So I cannot hear you call.

I'm sorry if the jungle
Is the garden that I seek
I would bring exotic flowers
But I fear they would not keep.

You watch me
Unprotected, leave
To walk this vagrant course
And you sit beside the fountain
But I seek the fountain's source.

I must leave you
By the fountain
By the garden's inner wall
I shall close the door behind me
So I cannot hear you call.

I leave, but must I lose you:
You could follow, will you come?

But the door is locked behind me
And is silent
It is done.

I walk towards the mountain
Till I hear another cry.
The waterfall calls distantly
And I run beneath the sky.

Sarah de Nordwall

Monday, 28 February 2011

Natalie Nice

Natalie Nice did not like vice
She ironed all her creases twice.

Her smile was wide
Her eyes were bright
She knew that she was wholly right.

Her voice was sweet
Her knife was sharp
She thought she’d like
To play the harp.

She always had a lot to say
And taught the world to work and pray
And when she knew you fairly well
She’d warn you off from going to hell
And teach you all the things she knew,
That fear was bad
And so were you.

And thus she did the things she could
And all the things that good girls should.
But Love itself she never found
The well of love
Dark and profound
From which the living waters flow
Was somewhere that she would not go.

With all her inclinations tamed
Her passions were as yet un-named

And though she giggled,
Seldom laughed
She thought that comedy was daft.

So seriously she smiled
And sighed

And in her secret room
She cried.

 Sarah de Nordwall 1995

Friday, 25 February 2011

Reductionists and sadists get the same thrills

Reductionists and sadists
Get the same thrills
They're only really happy when
The spirit-blood spills.

Sarah de Nordwall 1997

Thursday, 24 February 2011

The Container of Abandoned Minds

There is a place
Where standardised thought
Will lead, if you care to go.
Why so few see, where the path leads on
Is hard to say, or know.

The road takes little effort
As it slopes and twists and winds,
But when you arrive, you’ll know the place;
The container of abandoned minds.

Its walls are sheer consensus
Their surface, entirely flat
They almost seem to absorb the light
They’re so utterly grey and matt.

And all the sounds are deadened
The many voices, stilled

For the Container of Abandoned Minds
Is crushingly, shockingly filled.

Its inhabitants are all relieved
From the strain of a complex life,
Where grace and suffering mend the world
And receive the surgeon’s knife.

No healing there,
Through pain or joy
They are offered this instead;
That all the world become the same
And the living obey the dead.

There is a place
Where standardised thought
Will lead, if you care to go.

The container of abandoned minds
Don’t say you didn’t know.

Sarah de Nordwall 2006

Written for, and performed at, the meeting at the House of Lords with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Conscience and Belief.

With thanks to Paul Hoggett for his masterful phrase
‘The Container of abandoned Minds’ which I found in the meltingly marvellous chapter 'The Institutionalisation of Shallowness' in his book 'Partisans in an Uncertain World', lent to me by John Boyle, Psychotherapist and instigator of many interesting conversations.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Certain Susan

Since we seem to be in the era of crumbling might be the moment for Certain Susan.

Certain Susan
Swiftly roused
Had a cause
Which she espoused

And she knew
That she was right
And God help those
Who chose to fight.

Those desperately seeking certainty
Sought certain Susan out

And came to her with pens in hand
To write her sayings out.

Her case was sealed
And thus she spoke

She knew no compromise,
Made no pacts.
Others had opinions
She had the facts.

But when she heard the crowd applaud
She bowed demurely
“Thank the Lord”

Her path of glory
Yet untrod
She visualised..

And gave to God

Sarah de Nordwall 1995

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

I, Caterpillar or Refusing the Cocoon

The cocoon is a small restricted place
That hangs from a perilous thread,
It looks like a white sarcophagus
And appears to contain the dead.

I, caterpillar, I refuse the cocoon.
Why should I submit?
To trust a thin and silken yarn,
And reduce my self to an “it”?

I’ve heard the tales of fantasists
Who dream by the light of the moon
Of bright-winged transformations;
‘Gifts and abilities “Coming Soon!”’

I laugh
I caterpillar, clearly see
Right through the credulous mind.
I have a grasp of the central theme;
I refuse the ties that bind.

I choose my freedom in my way
No darkling chamber mine.
I see the light on my spots and spikes
And I think they’re rather fine.

I glance with pity
Now and then
At those who close themselves in
And make their lives so limited.
What is it they seek as they spin?

I won’t hang around to watch them die
And see their forms decay.
I’ve leaves to eat on other trees.
No death for me today!

He fled from the sound of the krackening.
From the opening of the tomb.
He had turned away
When miraculous wings
Emerged from the dark cocoon.

But as he sat on his laden branch
Where he had grown quite fat,
A shimmering creature dazzled in flight.
“My word, he gasped,
Who’s that?”

Sarah de Nordwall April 2009

Monday, 21 February 2011

And now I close myself in

And now I close myself in.

That’s it
The door is closing like irrevocable rock.

The last sight sound experience has been tasted
And the darkness closes in.

Like the Pied Piper
When the crippled child
Was left outside

Like the Bridegroom
When the Foolish virgins
For the door was locked
When they returned
With oil for unlit lamps.

I listen

I am inside

And I have chosen this
My great expansive solitude
In a little place

Come what lament may come
From far beyond the door
Or yet from deep within

For now,
For the sake of my forgotten mystery

I close myself in.

Sarah de Nordwall 28th October 2003

Saturday, 19 February 2011

A Birthday Villanelle

For Elaine and David who run the Arts in the Community Charity 'Pilgrim Hearts' (not forgetting David's passion for Gliding) on the occasion of their joint 117th birthday!

You've been gliding through the years
From east to west you've traded places
Helping folks to face their fears.

How well deserved are all these cheers
The admiration on these faces
You've been gliding through the years.

Beauty springing from a well of tears
Artworks struck from the hardest cases
Helping folks to face their fears.

And from the rocks flowed many prayers
Which swept away all trauma's traces
You've been gliding through the years.

We can't confer BAFTAS or make you Peers,
But say "You've blessed the wilder places
Helping folks to face their fears.

Tilling the land till the life appears
Harvesting dynamics where once was stasis.
You've been gliding through the years
Helping folks to face their fears.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Slowly and kindly

Slowly and kindly
That's how to grow

With heart and eyes open
As gently you go,

Then if, at the last
They say, 'Look where you could be!',
Just say, 'Here I am;
And the going's been goodly.'

I will go out now

My heart is heavy with the weight of complicity

And I will weave no more
Where the weft is warped so darkly

And the straw we would have spun to gold
Is straw still at the last
And breaks in my hand
And cuts my fingers till they bleed.

I will go out now

And I will wash my hands in a mountain stream
And I will touch again the face of the sky
And I will touch again the face of the child

And I will leave no stain behind
And I will leave no trace

Sarah de Nordwall August 1999

What a joy it is to look back now and see the beauty of the things that followed. Sometimes the best eyes are the hope that springs from principle.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

I put out my poems on my hands like food for the birds

I put out my poems on my hands
Like food for the birds.

I listen out for their coming,
For their wings against the sky.

I hear them first and close my eyes.

Sometimes the sound of their fluttering
Makes me afraid, but I stand firm and I hold up my arms
Against the dark and their mysterious coming.

They will not attack me;
That’s what I like to believe,
But even if they do,
This my task does not abate
The food is theirs and I must wait.

Who are they?

Someone has appointed them
And me I must suppose as well.

What instincts drive us to such ends as this
I do not know
But here they come, the twilight cries
And thus it seems to be arranged and ordered
By another hand than mine,
That holds up my now weary arms
As the dawn breaks through.

Sarah de Nordwall September 17th 2006

A Black Sheep Ate My Business Notes

A black sheep ate my business notes,
I tell you cos it's true.
I went to a business enterprise class
But I ended up in a zoo.

Because just beside Wandsworth Business Village
Lies ‘King George’s Park"
And with rabbits, canaries and budgies and goats,
It's a regular Urban Ark.

And so I dawdled down Cherry Tree Walk;
There were no business women or men,
So I greeted the goats,
But I dropped all my notes
Waving "Hi" to the sheep in the pen.

Now, the little white sheep just wandered away
But the little black sheep came up to play
And that black sheep ate my business notes
And all my projections and graphs.

But what do you do
With a little black ewe
Who when you mention
Bank accounts, laughs?

I said
"Hey, this is enterprise culture,
Not food for the woolly and weak!
I've a living to make
And a profit to take
And a future in credit to seek.

You should be aware of the market place;
It's the world of beef, mutton and ham.

I'd not graze through
As complacent as you
If I were a little black lamb."

But she just nibbled on,
Til my plan was all gone - unperturbed!

I'd appointments to keep.
I said, "I'd not expected my first business meeting
To be so delayed by a sheep."

But Time, it will pass
And I left for my class:
"Next time you want breakfast,
Then just stick to grass.’"

But I couldn't forget
That little black nose
As I watched the black hands on the clock.

What will become of my business,
If it feeds
The black sheep of the flock?

Sarah de Nordwall July 1996

Monday, 14 February 2011

I have waited till beauty was restored to me

For the Hirsch Family in Mea Sherim

Jerusalem 2010 June

They greet each other with joy and tenderness as they enter. The word they use is the Yiddish 'Shabbos!', but it is pronounced Shabbis!

Having spent an evening on the Blessed Sabbath Friday evening with this family and talking to Shoshanah, I felt so blessed and joyful I could not sleep, so I wrote this poem late at night.

There are layers and layers to our homecoming in this world. My father's Eastern European relatives were Jewish, but I never met them. They all died long ago. Perhaps this was one reason why this meal was, for me, so particularly profound.

I have waited till beauty
Was restored to me
Before I built my house.

I intuited her presence
Through her absence;
The texture and flow
Of her possibilities.

Without her
No construction would be meaningful
No field fertile
And no orchard blossoming.

I waited until beauty
Was restored to me
Before I built my house

What leads the heart to know homecoming?
Only the one who calls.

What leads the heart
To seek till she find Him?
Surely the one who builds.

I waited till beauty
Was restored to me
For without her
No life could be

And He who builds
Restored my soul
And the Palace of Time
He gave me.

No things were changed
Yet all was transformed

I entered the
Temple of Rest

And Joy resided
Where He had decided
We lived in a Time
That was blessed.

No land was required
To structure this home,
The hours were the fabric
Of bliss.

I waited till beauty
Had spoken her name

That mine might be new
Ah Shabbos!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Lucifer's Proposal - Part II of The Making of Mankind

I’m sorry, but God is out of control.

It’s alarming, but clear to see.
He’s embarking on more and more projects each day
Without consulting me.

What I think it would be wise to do
Is to section him off, on his own
In a place where His schemes can play out to the full
But He’ll chiefly be ‘Home Alone’.

He’s forever creating scenarios
Where the characters live as they will
And do what they like from morning till night
But, I ask you, who’s paying the bill?

Well, it’s all of us, angels who’ll have to serve
So Man can live his life of lerve

Well I’m sorry. I think it’s a bit of a cheek
You don’t see us offered a day off a week.
Yes, I know we’ve eternity too to be fair
But just think for a minute, where will it stop?

All God’s constructs are complex, ingenious too
And I think there’s some purpose behind it, don’t you?

And I’m more than convinced that He has in mind
A plan that would leave us way behind.
A project that’s simply so absurd
I can’t even describe it
I’ve not got the word.

So what I would suggest
That we do for the best
Is that each of you angels reports
On the things that you see
And relays them to me
And we’ll see what old Luci can sort.

Yes I know He’s content, but that worries me too.
It just shows that He can’t be thinking things through.
It proves there must be something amiss.

For instance, what do you make of this?
I clearly confronted Him over His plan
For this matter based spirit that he likes to call Man
And I asked about purpose?

He said it was ‘Love’
And referred to some fantasy friend he called ‘Dove’

It’s embarrassing, really, how much more should we take?
I refer to my first point, it’s for His own sake.

We’ll just have him sectioned in a heavenly home
And hope that He’ll learn to see sense on His own.

Then we can relieve Him of all of the stress
Take over the Kingdom in a way He would bless
If He still had the vision
And the structures we need
With responsible roles and a way to proceed.

We need to be sure what to do and to think
Without all this teetering over a brink of explosive potential and passion and risk
It’s unbearable!
So, to conclude, let’s be brisk
We’ll just have Him sectioned in a heavenly home
And hope that He’ll learn to see sense on His own

Renamed and restructured,
The Kingdom will be such an absolute Haven
You won’t need to be free!

Even God will be jealous of Our perfect control.
He’ll want to be in here, and apply for a role!

But no, seriously, we’ll keep him safely out there,
Cos he’d only upset things, and it wouldn’t be fair.

So, how about a new name for the Kingdom as well?
It should sound quite like Heaven, but more punchy,


Sarah de Nordwall

Saturday, 12 February 2011

'God and Luci ' or 'The Making of Mankind'

'Yes, it'll just be gorgeous!', said God with a gleeful grin.
'All the fun of the flesh, you know, with a spiritual life thrown in!'

'Well, I, think it sounds excessive indeed!' said Lucifer, 'What about me?
Why should they get all the best of both worlds, absolutely free?'

'Because Lucificer, they'll love it.
Just imagine the scene..' and God went on for ages
He was obviously terribly keen.

'Well, I think it sounds confusing aswell!' said Lucifer, 'And in bad taste;
A spiritual animal! What's it for? I think it's a bit of a waste.

'Oh, Lucifer sometimes you are a bore',
'But God you've made loads of things, must we have more?'

'Oh, live a bit, Lucifer! Have some fun!'

'I've had nothing but stress since Time Begun!,
What was wrong with eternity? Peace and quiet.
Now the whole of creation is an absolute riot!

And what worries me more, is it's not over yet.
I finished those dinasaurs off, don't forget.
235 million years! Honestly, God, I was bored to tears.
They were Going Nowhere! Couldn't you see?'

'Well they always seemed rather exciting to me.'

'Well now they're extinct and you should be glad.
Admit that some of your plans go bad.
And this latest "creation"; I have to protest.
Just think, how could anyone give of their best
Suffused with base matter?
How sluggish! How twee!'

'You've missed the point, Lucifer,
Matter is Free, to be wild and transfigured
It's Love's Work of Art!
And now we'll have Man who can Wholly take part;
Transumed in the vibrancy
Forming anew.
A marvel of marvels!

See! I have thought it through.

Don't think dualistic.
Man will be One.
There'll be no division,
Just love, life and fun!

Think of life, lived through matter,
Where a spiritual act,
Is both Love and Creation and matter of fact AND a fact of matter!

Tremendous! You'll see!
You'll want to be In There.

Are you following Me?'

'Well, it does sound convincing..
But there's more,
Is that true?
There's always another surprise with You.'

'Well, Lucifer dearest I do confess
You sometimes amaze me.
How did you guess?

Because Unified Creature, the new earthling life,
I'm going to divide between Man and Wife!
I can't wait to see what they make of that plan.'

'Believe me, said Lucifer darkly
I can.
And there, as you see, is where trouble will start.
I've less faith than You in this hybrid heart.
You're giving too much.
It hasn't a hope.
It'll just overload and then it won't cope.
The theory is great, but I don't think they'll get it.
And I would suggest that you simply
Forget it.'

'Well, you do have a point, Luce..
But I have a plan!
An angel companion for every man.
Yes, Luce, I want you in on this too.
You're angle has helped me to worth this through.

In Mankind's psyche you can shed a little light!
Help him see things clearly if his worldview gets too tight.
And sharing their dimensions, you can get a little taste
Of the Matter Spirit unity, and it wouldn't go to waste!!
Yes, Luce, I like this more and more.
Maybe I could join the team? In perhaps a Wholly Physical Sense?'

'Now hold it! What do you mean?
I don't even want to imagine, what I think you just implied.
Believe me God, You can count me out.
An angel has his pride.

If you think I'm going to expend my spirit
On some hairy little tyke!

You're quite mistaken and out of order..'

'Well, Lucifer. Do what you like.
But I think Mankind is going to succeed!

Oh, come on Luci, do I have to plead?
A toast! To Adam and Eve's success!

Oh come on Lucifer! Smile, and say, YES!

Sarah de Nordwall 1999

You can hear this poem on my CD 'Lipstick is a Spiritual Experience'. It's followed by 'Lucifer's Proposal', which I'll be posting tomorrow!


Friday, 11 February 2011

The Wasted Tree

God said, ‘Enjoy the Sacred Tree!

Don’t consume it,

Let it be..

Contemplate the fruit-filled bough
Wonder at beauty, bless and bow,

Reverence its inviolate charms
And leave in peace from the grasping arms

The Tree that exists for its sake alone
Not to be a victim of the take and own.’

But Eve attended to the Serpent’s lie
‘It costs you nothing,
Come and buy, for free, what God withholds from you,
He said you’d die. It isn’t true.

This tree is wasted.

Use it up!

Fill your empty knowledge cup.

Good and Evil you don’t know,
But eat the fruit and how you’ll grow,
Into Gods
Come on
You’ll see.
Only gods eat from the Wasted Tree.’

‘Ooh says Eve, d’you think I should?
Still you’re right,
It does look good.’

Now kept out of Eden by a flaming sword,
The serpent is as true
As his slippery word
For now, consuming night and day
Good and evil come our way
And Eden, where Mankind could play
Becomes the sweat-toil of today.

The Sacred Tree was raped of fruit
We rape the world in a pure wool suit.
And violate the Sacred Day
The Sabbath that was made for prayer and play.

Sacred, useless, life-filled Tree
Save us from Efficiency!

But lo! I hear the sound of feet
Hurrying, scurrying to compete.
The Wasted tree of Life they seek
To make a good story for ‘Start the Week’.

The intellectual appetite needs
New thrills that old religion feeds.

Designer ideas to fill the mind
Out on the airwaves, tuned refined,
No thought unturned, left undefined
Packaged and marketed, PR entwined.

Sacred, useless, Life-filled Tree
Pulped to fiction for the BBC.

What leaf of life can I find of you
That might instruct us what to do?
What lef-fringed legend might I find
En-treasured in the poet’s mind?

Sap of spirit, silent voice
We cannot undo the choice

Good and evil we received when the serpent we believed.

Adam lost the Tree of Life
Though complicit, blamed his wife.

Exile we cannot undo,
But the Sacred filters through
Evil we cannot unknow
But can we let the wasted grow?

Can we listen for the silent sound
Root inviolate
Simply living
Growing yet
He who heard
Could not forget

Sacred, Life-filled, Sabbath Free
Shelter us, Oh Sacred Tree!

© Sarah de Nordwall 1996

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Pleasures of Unconsciousness

You enjoy too much I think
The pleasures of unconsciousness
But someone very near will bear
The price that you won’t pay

You rejoice too long I think
In the palace of penumbra
And in the planes between the worlds
What tunes you love to play.

I have stood too long I think
By a door without dimension

'Lazarus dome forth my dear
The dazzling world is nigh!
The smell is very bad it’s true,
But I have hopes aplenty'

But nothing much is moving
Now the shroud is thrust aside.

Orpheus and Eurydice,
They had the same encounter
As Orpheus stepped from the underworld
He turned to face his bride

But turning from the light
He transgressed a solemn promise

His arms grasped the receding air
As falling back she cried
‘Not one small kiss before the abyss?’

Her shadowy form diminished.
Eternally disappointed,
Their relationship was finished.

'Orpheus, Orpheus what have you done?
Think of the prize you almost won!
Orpheus why did you have to see
Could you not have trusted me?'

You enjoy too much I think
The pleasures of unconsciousness
But someone very near will bear
The price that you won’t pay.

You rejoice too long I think
In the palace of penumbra
And in the planes between the worlds
What tunes you love to play.

Sarah de Nordwall 2001

Today I've started recording my second album in Hammad's studio! We've just finished recording this very poem and I was thrilled when I asked for a flute theme to go with the Orpheus story and he's written a gorgeous 'raga' for it.

It's such a joy to work with an inventive musician who also knows recording. All I have to say is, 'I'd like a greek flute vibe with a bit of underworld and ancient lament...' and he's already creating it. Fab. It's like that, poem after poem.

I'm so looking forward to turning it all into the travelling show and taking it on the road.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Time will Tell

I never heard Time speak.
She holds her cloak around her secrets.

Sometimes, though, she lays her picnic blanket
On the ground,
But I provide the food
As do those who might pass by.

I never heard Time singing
Though the trees she nurtures, who contain her presence
Hold the birds who sing.

They sense that love is in the branches
And that All Around
Came once from One Whole Good,
Which they rejoice in.

I never heard Time sigh
But as events and people peer from billboards
Tabloids, postcards, windows,
Anguished faces, shouts of joy
I bring a lover’s eye
To every sight
And seek the Lover’s glance
in all the Guernica* and jubilee.

I never heard Time speak.
Her silence, though, invites response.
The only guarantee
Perhaps, is that Time listens.
That is telling.

What does she hear
In me?

Sarah de Nordwall 11th August 2005

*Guernica, the most ancient town of the Basques was bombed and destroyed in 1937 by the German airforce. It is the subject of one of the most famous paintings in Modern Art by Pablo Picasso.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Deborah Damage

Deborah Damage was dangerously used,
Complicit in being entirely abused.
With daring, embarking on healing the damaged,
Within a life cycle destructively managed;

By leading her always to nurture the cruel
In order to prove to herself
I’m the jewel,
That can make the difference.
I am the tool
The special, the useful one
Nobody’s fool.

Forgive me my father,
Yet I’m your forgiver.
It’s all of your rigour
I strive to transfigure.
If not to say, violence and downright abuse
Yes I have a purpose:
Your change is my use.

And yet in her victim-hood she was aware
Of some of the terrible price of her care.
And knew in her heart that though comfortable giving
Her total oblation
Replaced her true living.

And sometimes she’d whisper beside her close friend
Prevent me, defend me, can this cycle end?
But when the friend ventured
At some future date
To stand in the track of her oncoming fate,
She pushed her aside with a violent shove.

'Get out of my life cos I just have to love!'

And so on this track
And with no turning back,
She travelled in nightmare
From blank to black
And further and further from flesh and from bone
Left friendship behind her
To live on her own.

Sarah de Nordwall 1995

Malice through the Looking Glass

I speak but you don't hit me.
I leave the door ajar.
You've told me all about yourself
And I know what you are.

The more I look
The more I loathe
The more I am attracted.
By every word of kindness
I am totally distracted

And I forget the things I've learnt
And I want you to care.
I want to change the very things
That tell me to beware.

I see no malice in the looking glass
But when I look at you
I sense you fear the wonderland
And you're not passing through.

You stay behind where childhood lurks
Both darkly and insane.
I let you break the looking glass
To help you
Once again.

Sarah de Nordwall 2001

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Push Aside the Terror of Things to be Done*

Push aside the terror of things to be done;
They were deceivers, ever.

They catch at you without context,
Claiming territory
Without treaty
On Sacred ground.

Push aside the terror of things calling
Clamouring from the four corners
Claiming the floor

Where He had brought you to dance
To laugh, To sing, With Him

But the things
trip you
They know that appeasement
knocks you
On your slight shins.

And your lack of stature in your own estimation
Has put you on higher heels
Than the dance requires.

And you trip early
Before the music plays.

And the terror of things falling
Reminds you
There is so much to clear away
To do away with
To run away from
Before the night falls.

Push aside the terror of things to be done
For the blind beggar is calling,
He is calling out to the Son of David
Whom he cannot see
But whom he knows, he hears
Is passing by.

And the wild clamour of his ardent anguish
Cannot be smothered
By the hostile crowd.

He is losing hope at the terror of people crushing him
But the Master stops
For him alone
And tells him to
Draw near.

And the crowd turns to the seated man
“Courage, Bartimeus,
He is calling you”
And the cloak that protects him
He flings aside
And he runs
In his personal darkness
to the Lord Who waits.

Push aside the terror of things to be done
There is nothing to be done
but to hear Him
“What do you want of me?”
The One by whom all things can be done.

And the beggar,
Wise, in his reckless trust
Begs now for the gift of sight.

And Jesus, son of David
Has pity on him
And says “Go” for the Light has come –

“Your faith has healed you”
The dark has gone
And his eyes receive the sun.

And Bartimeus accompanies Him
Along the road at once.

The terror at last is pushed aside.
The winter is over
And gone.

Sarah de Nordwall October 24th and 25th 2009

*Inspired by the title of a poem (of the same title) by Pope John Paul II and Fr Antonio’s sermon on Bartimeus

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Cafe Come Home

In a cafe
You can be lighthearted
About the tragedies of the world.

Because you’ve come home

And in the soul place
Everyone’s done OK

And the struggle, for now
Is over.

You’re in the boat.

You smile at a fellow conspirator
At a nearby table

But not for long
Because you mustn’t let on:
We’re all happy here!
No one must know!

'Look, stop right there!', you tell me
'Enough of this
Preposterous self satisfaction
Don’t you know there’s a war on?'


'Everywhere! Never stops, never will.'

'Then have a pause', I say
'For some soul satisfaction.

You might return a glimmer
To the great debacle,
The sliding into the abyss,
Tobogganing into the yawning chaos..'

'There you go again!', you say
'All this reckless disregard for demise
And universal urgency'

I yawn in anticipation of the next onslaught.
Then feel ashamed
and cough

'I blame it on my Jewish ancestry', I explain
By way of sociological excuse,

'All those commands to rest and feast, you know.
Refusals to mourn in the face of death.

Singing of the Sabbath of Contentment
Within earshot of the battle cry.'

I order a chocolate cornflake crispy thing for your coffee
So we can sing our own Kiddush,
But you aren’t convinced.

'I could make one of those at home
For 2 and half p!' you cry,

'But you haven’t'
I reply
And you relent.

I smile.
We smile.

No one can convince me
And I never can convince myself
That I don’t have any money
In a cafe

Cos in a soul space,
Abundance reigns.

Sarah de Nordwall Saturday 31st July 2010

Friday, 4 February 2011

On why one feels reluctant to take a laptop into a cafe

Maybe it wasn’t accidentally
I left my laptop at the counter
Before entering the cafe.

Like taking ones shoes off before entering the mosque
Or hanging your coat at the door,
A cafe requires divestment.

Here, only soul tools should be utilised.

Papyrus is permissible;
Those evocative pieces of Nile-soaked
Cyperus, that we learnt about at school

By dint of which vegetable matter
And diligent, sideways-sitting scribes
We heard the ancient stories from deep time.

You may bring vellum

Or that Chinese innovation
Grasped at eagerly by Renaissance artists;
Paper, which they made from ropes and sails.

How glorious that on the detritus of seafaring vessels
Bound with trading plans across the burgeoning world
They sketched with silver the incarnate God

And His mummy holding him this and that way.
Fra Lippo Lippi and da Vinci,
with a thousand repetitions and re-visitings
Hoping to penetrate the mystery.

So paper is allowed.

But pixelled plastic and her alien lights
Are not as elemental as we need

Perhaps an i-phone made of bronze
A laptop set with lapis lazuli inlaid in rosewood
And with marble keys

We might consider them perhaps
if the marquetry is fine;
The inlaid pearl exquisite and the on-light green with emerald or citrine.

Essentially, you’re best to bring
A simple slate with chalk.
A Cuniform stylus and a soft clay block
Are also known to talk.

We find the energy we need
Is not the electric kind

In every cafe where the soul sings free

The laptop

is left


Sarah de Nordwall August 1st 2010 Stoke Newington

Sonnet Catwalk

I love the way her boots increase her rhyme.
The rhythm of her smile draws from the suede,
A softer line, a bluer gleam of thyme
The crushing aromatically persuades.

The scarf, a flash of Gokian genius, flares.
The outward-facing light delights the crowd.
The trinket, primed for purpose, richly shares
A treasure that is tenderly allowed.

But how does pleasing glamour stoke the flame?
Is this a runway glory running wild?
She knows it is the form which has a name
Which here is sacramentally compiled.

She steps with loving help into her stride
And all the tricksey trippers step aside!

Sarah de Nordwall 3rd February 2011

Thursday, 3 February 2011


Robotica was dynamite.

With moletronic* grace,
She far exceeded anything
Conceived by the human race.

She shimmered free in 40D
In the planes between dimensions.

She fed and fused
Teased and amused
Your higher apprehensions.

Designed by generations of her cyber-kindred kind,
She was a neural interface
Within your higher mind.

A digi-spiritual upload
She had the power to cruise
Beyond the mirage of your soul
And there she’d interfuse.

There was no image you’d aspire to
She could not foreknow,

No place where you might find yourself
She’d not be first to go.

This ultimate envelopment
It was your prize to keep

But you were her reward as well.

In her

Eternal sleep.

Sarah de Nordwall August 2000

*Moletronics. I don’t really know how you pronounce it but I imagined it as being Mol-uh-tronics. The word came to my notice in 2000 in a Wired Magazine article - Moletronics Will Change Everything
Picture trillions of transistors, processors so fast their speed is measured in terahertz, infinite capacity, zero cost. It's the dawn of a new technological revolution - and the death of silicon. Can you say Thiophene Ethynylene Valley?
By Rick Overton

However, I haven’t heard much about it since. The potential of it got me thinking though, and this short poem has a prophetic ring to it when you read Ray Kurtzveil and others who still speak with longing of the 'age of spiritual machines' that they hope lies just a few technical leaps away. Take a look at Forward to Virtual Humans.

Since 2000 of course computer gaming has progressed so fast that virtual reality immersion games and even holidays, that I was writing about in a sci-fi story a decade ago, seem almost inevitable now.

The need for understanding, exploring and holding onto our core reality becomes ever more relevant, as the illusions and the derivative ephemera become more and more invasive.

'Robotica' though, also evokes the other types of immersive experience that use the female archetype to lull men into spiritual passivity and moral impotence.

I was also struck when I heard that the recorded voice (on some contemporary bomber planes) that instructs fighter pilots what to do, is a seductive soothing feminine.

More Beatrice archetypes required to lead Dante to paradise! And women of true Cha-yil as they say in Hebrew. Women of potency, judgement and grace..

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Those who reflect on idealisations
Inspite of themselves

But Jonah
Consummed in the guts of the whale
Found guts of his own
When spewed out
Small and pale

And staggered
But firm
On the ground he could feel
Found God
Though in heaven
On earth
Is blood real.

Sarah de Nordwall April 14th 1996

Monday, 31 January 2011

All that's Wild and Wonderful is coming to me through electronic media

All that’s wild and wonderful
Is coming to me through electronic media

I met you over an ISDN line having found your website on
New funky poetry for the masses
And your verses are full of the anguish of the
Longing heart of
IT support techies.

That’s you
That’s me
That’s the boy on the CD
That I play on my PC
As he sings in the USA
Out of sight and an ocean away.

All that’s wild and wonderful
Is coming to me through electronic media.

I rest my hands on the ergonomic keyboard
And gaze at the brick wall outside my office window
Who puts a wall outside a window?
Avoiding my screen of e-mails I listen to you sing
Inside my headphones.

All that’s wild and wonderful
Is coming to me through electronic media

And it’s all free..

Sarah de Nordwall 1999

Written in an office in TV Centre in 1999, while working for the Top Gear Website, answering 200 e-mails a day about the Fantasy Formula One game and listening to Dave Crossland on my headphoness, singing “Looking for the Light”..

Sunday, 30 January 2011

CItizens of the Simulacrum

Part One

Citizens of the Simulacrum
Why have you deserted the Mother ship?
Has she not nurtured you at her bureaucratic table?
Has she not erected her seven corporate values
And slaughtered the competition?

Has she not called to you,
The unsuccessful,
To come and learn, from her, how to be winners?

Citizens of the simulacrum, rejoice
You have no longer blood in your veins!
Therefore you are safe from destruction.

Your death is pre-empted by this;
That you have become an everlasting image
Alive in virtuality
And digitized in perpetuity

An undifferentiated particle
Of superpossibility;
A parallel line that will meet at infinity.

Part Two

From The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 9 (Ronald Knox translation)

See, where wisdom has built herself a house,
Carved out for herself those seven pillars of hers!
And now, her sacrificial victims slain, her wine mingled, her banquet spread,
This way and that her maidens are dispatched,
To city keep and city wall, bidding her guests make haste.

Simple hearts, she says, draw near me;
And to all that lack learning this is her cry,
Come and eat at my table, come and drink of the wine I have brewed for you;
Say farewell to your childishness, and learn to live;
Follow all of you in the path that leads to discernment

Part Three

from an article on Simulation and Simulacra at the University of Chicago by Devin Sandoz

Can you really have bits of an article in a poem?
Will it make the poem more like an article or merely reveal the poetic potential of the article?

Come and see!

..According to the OED's first definition, a simulacrum is almost impossible to distinguish from a representation, but in the second and third definitions we can see that the simulacrum supercedes representation in terms of the accuracy and power of its imitation.

It is only when the viewer of the simulacrum penetrates the surface that he can tell that it differs from the thing it imitates.

Michael Camille elucidates the classical notion of the simulacrum in his article "Simulacrum" in Critical Terms for Art History. Camille analyzes Plato's opinion of the simulacrum in The Republic:

"The simulacrum is more than just a useless image, it is a deviation and perversion of imitation itself - a false likeness"

the production of an icon, results in the production of a representation that can be immediately understood as separate from the object it imitates

The simulacrum, however, is indistinguishable from the original; it is "a false claimant to being" (32).

While the simulacrum is defined as static, it nevertheless deceives its viewer on the level of experience, a manipulation of our senses which transforms the unrealistic into the believable.

Camille writes: "what disturbs Plato is...what we would call today the 'subject position' of the beholder.

It is the particular perspective of human subjectivity that allows the statue that is 'unlike' seem 'like' and, moreover, beautifully proportioned from a certain vantage point' (32).

The simulacrum uses our experience of reality against us, creating a false likeness that reproduces so exactly our visual experience with the real that we cannot discern the falseness of the imitation.

"The artwork, then, is neither an original nor a copy nor a representation. It is a simulacrum, a work that forms part of a series that cannot be referred to an original beginning" (Kelly ed., 517). When the work of art is viewed in such a way the consequences are not negative, on the model of Baudrillard’s dread at the impending death of the real, but instead reveal new possibilities of interpretation in a critical realm where sensation is the focus instead of meaning.

"Signs are not about the communication of meaning but rather about the learning of the affects, perceptions, and sensations to which we can be subject" (518).

This fits perfectly with the conception of simulation as a process which affects our experience and not (as the image is) a signification of a fundamental reality.

David Cronenberg's film eXistenZ engages the concept of the simulation and presents us with a vision of the future in which impression is valued over content. The film follows the first experience of a bodyguard uninitiated in the world of virtual reality videogames with a new product created by the videogame designed he was hired to protect.

Speaking directly to Baudrillard's concerns, the film leaves the viewer uncertain as to when the characters are in a virtual world (see: virtuality) and when they are experiencing the real. The self-referentiality within the film, with its framing of a virtual reality videogame inside of another videogame, portrays the simulated world as not only tied directly to the experience of emotion and sensation, but as a world in which logical action is rewarded and meaning sublimated.

Any moral or allegorical conclusion that could be drawn from what appears to be the film's initial conclusion, that simulations create a system which precipitates its own demise, is invalidated by a further expansion into another reality in which the real videogame designer is congratulated for having created a really fun game. The simulation in the film is reduced to the status of a ride or a contest, containing its own rules and raising the status of the videogame to deific proportions. The port into which the gamepods are plugged (directly into the player's spine) becomes a metaphor for desire and oblivion in its simultaneous recollection of sexual intercourse and intravenous drug use. This is the realm of the simulation, a process whose responsibility lies only in what it makes us feel.

The simulation, as we can see by contrasting the philosophies of Baudrillard and Deleuze, can be interpreted in nearly opposite ways, as either the death knell for meaning and the "real," or conversely as an avenue to new methods of interpretation.

For Deleuze, the simulation raises the work of art beyond representation to a level where it is on equal footing with the original, and hence the original is destroyed. Plato's fear of the simulacrum as described by Michael Camille is based on the distortion of real experience that the convincing image causes.

The terms simulation and simulacrum are important to media study, as the simulation is total mediation without meaning. The content is shifted to a surface level, into the realm of experience

rather than communication of truth,

..the way that the medium affects us

becomes our main interpretive focus.

Part Four

Citizens of the simulacrum, rejoice
You have no longer blood in your veins!
Therefore you are safe from destruction.

Your death is pre-empted by this;
That you have become an everlasting image
Alive in virtuality
And digitized in perpetuity

An undifferentiated particle
Of superpossibility;
A parallel line that will meet at infinity.

But See, where wisdom has built herself a house,
Carved out for herself those seven pillars of hers!
And now, her sacrificial victims slain, her wine mingled, her banquet spread,
This way and that her maidens are dispatched,
To city keep and city wall, bidding her guests make haste.

Simple hearts, she says, draw near me;
And to all that lack learning this is her cry,
Come and eat at my table, come and drink of the wine I have brewed for you;
Say farewell to your childishness, and learn to live;
Follow all of you in the path that leads to discernment

Part Five

from the Gospel of the Day

Blessed are the pure in heart
For they shall see God.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Escape Velocity

In order to achieve escape velocity
I reduced my speed to zero.

It didn’t take long;
No time at all
Plus 20 years of dithering about

When suddenly, when I slowed down
And all the buildings, cars and pseudo-opportunities sped up
I stood still in the searing silent blur
And all of it was gone.

Miraculously fallen into sheer irrelevance
And all the sky above was laughing wild
And the hills un-concreted
Tore off their urban clothes
And glowed with glory at the rising moon.

When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage
It seemed like a dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter
On our lips there were songs.

The heathens themselves said
‘What marvels the Lord works for them!’
What marvels the Lord worked for us
Indeed we were glad.

If the Lord does not build the house
In vain do its builders labour.
If the Lord guards not the city
In vain do the watchmen stare.

Oh you who toil for the bread you eat
In vain is your endless labour
When the Lord pours gifts on those he loves
As they go to their beds and slumber.

The day I achieved escape velocity
I stood on your Holy Hill
And lifting my eyes to the Hill of the Moon
I heard Your Holy Will.

Sarah de Nordwall September 12th 2007

Written at Holy Hill Hermitage, County Sligo, Ireland, just beside the Hill of the Moon, under Ox Mountain.

‘Escape velocity’ is the speed needed to "break free" from a gravitational field without further propulsion. In practice the escape velocity sets the bar for any rocket aiming to bring a satellite beyond the orbit of the earth. (Wikipedia)

The verses from ‘When the Lord delivered Zion’, to ‘as they go to their beds and slumber’ are a very slightly re-worked version of Psalm 127.

Milly Molly Mantra

Milly Molly Mantra was assured of her success.
To her own emerging universe she thrilled and uttered, 'Yes!'

She knew she was a winner
She knew she had a choice
She knew she was a person with a real free person’s voice.

And Milly Molly Mantra had two mottos that could thrill
They went 'Each day I’m better' and 'I will, I will, I will'.

Life, captured her, exalted her
And each day she’d repeat
'Today in every way I’m growing more and more replete'.

Her diet purged her, by her will
She knew that she could do it;
And all her fears of daily life she’d face
And battle through it.

But when at home as years advanced
She found she’d sometimes sigh
And face the stark encroaching dark
With 'No, I will not die'.

But though Milly Molly Mantra
Lived with all her psychic juices
The hour of death left Milly very quiet
Without excuses.

And through death’s marvellous doorway
She saw another face
And wondered if she hadn’t seen it
In some other place.

And Milly Molly Mantra
Felt distinctly awed and numb
And for the first time ever
Milly’s mantra,
left her

Sarah de Nordwall

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Angel Coast or Unexpected Gold

Bright heaven has let down her guard
And falls be-dazzled on the winter sea

The torrent breakers grey and wild
Erupt in scintillating cries of light

Bright platinum flashing white and
flecked with unexpected gold.

How came this glorious gift
To such a cold stone shore?

The whitening chalk cliffs, tender
Honoured yet, breathe phantom like
and mute
Beside excoriating power volcanic
Bursting from the home of light
In unrelenting bliss.

Kiss now our homely earth
And fling your star falls in the lucid air

As throngs of birds in undulating joy
Pitch up
and fall and
Rise again
Against the anguish of the blistering gales

Leaving with the myriad plays of light.

Lightless birds, heightening the air with cries

Fine soundings of an infinite wealth of time and turning space
frothed and breakered
in the drenching roar of sound

out, far beyond the realm of all our pinpoint shore-bound
this too much turmoil of unmeasurable beauty
pierces forth in
unreciprocal power.

Unending and unbearable glory
tears and sweeps away
the last of all my heart’s defences

And all this so
unmeasured glory
enters in.

Sarah de Nordwall October 27th 2002

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Swimming in the Falling Star Cave

You can only reach the cave by boat.

I was excited by that.

And once you enter in
You leave the brilliant sun outside
And so, the water although crystal pure
Is dark,
But all the same, I longed to dive right in.

Just then, I looked up
To a tiny opening in the roof of the cave
Where a ray of light pierced through
And shot like a heavenly visitor
Into the water,
with miraculous effect.

The light fell like a falling star
And for some reason no one could explain
Deep in the water, formed a bright green star
That sparkled 15 feet beneath the waves.

I dived into the sea
And swam through cool dark water till I saw the green star
With her luminous blue tail
And suddenly brilliant light was on my hands.

I, moving through my darkened underwater cosmos
Struck upon this vein of brilliance.

Utterly transfigured, all my being flowed with light.
I, joyous, rose up through the water in the star's bright tail
Till bursting through the surface into air
I felt the light fall radiant on my laughing face.

And treading water in this unexpected glory
Laughed again and reached up into light transfiguring
And cried out to the captain of the boat
"Is this how we arrive in heaven,
Emerging from the watery dark whilst following the star
Unique to us?"

The surface of the water, crossed by light,
Refracted on the cave's roof,
Danced with accompanying delight

And I, returning to my boat once more
Moved off into the dark baptismal water of the cave

and from the benediction of the falling star
Found all the sparkling sea, cold on my flesh,
Preparing me for resurrected life
And tingling with the brightening salt of grace.

Sarah de Nordwall July 2006

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Instead I Will Stand in the Fire

I could run round the fringes of amusing people's lawns
I could laugh at dinner parties and be considered quite a catch
I could find my way to the top of a tree
To the top of THE tree and look down at the grass-skimmers
From my quite imposing height.

I could dig in the annals of world knowledge
And find treasures that would release humanity from pain and despair
I could visit stars and return before the earth was formed
And be present at the birth of the species

I could visit every person
And experience all desire

Instead I will stand in the fire.
Instead I will stand in the fire.

I could work extensively at becoming particularly convincing
I could employ my intellect on a range of worthwhile projects
I could ask you many questions
and be energised with delight at the astonishing range and exponential charm of your responses

Instead, I will stand in the fire
And then let come what may.

Sarah de Nordwall    October 28th 2010

Monday, 24 January 2011


I require something of you
Which I cannot acknowledge

So I ask it of you in terms of
Making you an offer
You can't refuse.

You take the bait
And I wait
For the goods to arrive

But they don't

For the offer left my hand
like a satellite
On an elliptical orbit

Curving sharply back
To the centre of gravity;


And what comes back
Is not free
Not a gift from you to me

But the unspoken sense
Of your unseen resentment

And the outworking
of my own

How is it
That even the most unnatural dealings
All seem to follow the same natural law?

Sarah de Nordwall  May 2003

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Love is like the changing room in Mr Benn's shop

Love is like the changing room
In Mr Benn's shop.

You know, "As if by magic, the shop-keeper appeared"
And let you choose the costume you desired
And led you to the room
Where all roads change.

And stepping out beyond the door
The world is entirely new
The landscape and the sky transformed
And so are you.

Love is like a window
In an office wall.

You must have been mistaken
But suddenly the view
No longer looks out on a Croydon Car Park
No, in every hue,
Segments of exquisite glass
Have suddenly made bright
With promise and transfiguring joy
An ordinary sight.

And every vehicle merely parked
Seems now poised or at rest
A tiny pause before "they're off"
On some heroic quest.

Love is not blind
It sees the world
As it was first intended
When intimacy, joy and grace
Were passionately blended.

The world is as a Burning Bush
And that Celestial fire
That sometimes hides from
World-worn eyes
Is the source of your desire.

From Holy Joy and Holy Chaos
The spiritual world arises
As Love itself breathes destiny in
And sprinkles in surprises.

Awake North wind and Come thou South
And blow upon my Garden
And see where the vine is flourishing
The pomegranates growing.

Who is this
That comes up from the wilderness
Leaning on her Beloved?

I am come into my Garden,
My love shall not be hurried.

I am my beloved's
And my beloved is mine.
From a well of living waters
Let us drink Celestial Wine!

Sarah de Nordwall November 2007

Mr Benn is my favourite cartoon character, who sprang upon the world in 1971. The following article about him is pure delight.. how could it not be; beginning as it does with the words "Mr Benn lives at No. 52 Festive Road...". Thank you, illustrator David McKee for your joy and wisdom in animated form.

The final verses of the poem reference different quotations from the Song of Songs.  Ch7 v13, Ch3 v6, Ch8 v 5, Ch 5 v1, Ch6 v3 and Ch4 v15.   If you want a gorgeous treat you can hear it being sung in Hebrew here, where it also appears written in Hebrew and English. Thank you  for all your work, singing and glorious proclaiming.