Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Final Refuge

for all women

They came for you at daybreak
When the war crept out of the darkness
To make the morning into a hell of hatred.

They came for you in old age
When euthanasia seemed like a merciful option
For your family.
You were always ready to serve.

They came for you in middle age
When the younger version of yourself
Was set up as an idol to destroy you.
You were always ready to forgive.

They came for you in your shining youth
When they offered you everything but fidelity.
How ready you were to let go
Of your right to be loved.

They came for you in childhood
When they wanted you as food for their fantasies.
Dressed to kill your innocence
You were always so longing
To be beautiful.

They came for you with unclean knives
To make you ‘pure’ and manageable
By tearing out your flesh within.
You were always ready to believe that the worst
Had all just been for the best
And to do the best
For your daughters.

And now they come for you in the final refuge
The life-giving space of the womb.

Your mother has been taught
That a boy is so much better
At last she has listened
And agreed.

And down to the facility she has walked
With the burden of girlhood within her.

And let them come for you
With acid and scissors, suction and pincers
Into the incinerator
In the name of choice.

Don’t be fooled, my sister.
Gendercide has a history.

Don’t become a chapter
In the long sad story.

They came with ideology
To take your discernment.

This time,
Don’t let them have it.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Tending Paradise

for Nick and Rachel, who gifted my friend Helen and I, with a weekend in their Artist's cottage in Rye, which was rainswept, ancient, healing and full of enchantment. A place to enjoy creativity and much thought.

Some time later, I attended a contemplative art day with Sr Sheila, who suggested we create some work on the theme of "Gardens".

These three poems were the ones I wrote on that day. They are now a gift to you, as a thankyou for that therapeutic weekend, as we arrive at the beginning of the great Triduum; the three days of the greatest of all healing stories, that began in a garden long ago.

I remember that someone once told me that the word Therapy, came from the Greek and that it had three related meanings;

To honour the gods
To cultivate a garden
And a process of healing

Sometimes, I wonder why God "takes so long", but then I discover that there has always been a good reason. Recently, I went to the Carmelite Church in Kensington, where you enter for confession through the wooden doors in the old fashioned style.

I wasn't too sure why I was writing about confession on our writing day about gardens, but it soon emerged through the foliage!

The First Poem

Part One - God Speaks

You are too frightened to enter my garden.
I think you fight the tangles in your own.

I cannot rush the thorn trees in a frenzy
You’d only find your own heart
Bruised and torn.

And so I wait alone and think of a garden
The garden that I tended long ago
Before we met.

Part Two

I saw an old man
Or so I thought

Thin and tall
Enter the wooden door

I only saw his back
And the long brown robe.

I entered through another door and knelt
At the lattice gate.

He was waiting
His eyes turned from me
His ear attentive

He was very young
He looked like a King

The finest features
The most poised of profiles.

What African country
He had come from
I could not identify.

I told Him all that
Was on my heart.

Through all
My tangles
He waited

I had the full attention of the King.

"My sister", he said

(Such unexpected words,
So natural to Him,
An accent I had never heard)

"These are very complex issues.
Who can tell where one life ends
And another person’s life

We live so often in the
Face of near

But we can persevere".

He took them one by one,
The stones from the dry path.

"Think of the great Teresa,
Even she, who felt she knew
What she was called by God to do
Was often faced with
Insurmountable difficulties.

But we can know, my sister,
When we pray, that God can
Open a window
and we see things suddenly
in a wholly new
and unexpected way".

To Cultivate a Garden

When we were little
We would make Japanese Gardens
out of a tea tray and a jam jar lid

The tray we’d fill with soil,
Moss from the trees would be grass
And gravely stones, the garden path.

Twigs would be trees
And the bright round jam lid filled with water
Was a shining pond.

How proud we were of our minute creations
What delight they gave us

As imaginary birds
Drank from the water source.

We were queens of a greening realm
That smelt of earth.

And all the blossoms we would fling in showers
Would fill our gardens with a feast of flowers.

A Process of Healing

The town of Rye is crowned by a tower
A stronghold from the eleven hundreds.
Fortress-strong for a thousand years,
It stood against the French and other brash invasions,
from rough raiders to wild pirates and the odd rum smuggling poor.

Within its walls they built a woman’s prison
Where, on bread and water and a Bible diet
They would do penance for their crime of being poor and
Having stepped outside the rules designed by men,
And men with money too, let’s note.

But just outside the prison door
Another than a jailor’s hand
had planted a herb garden
In the ancient style.

And from the look-out in the
Unforgiving tower
I looked down on the garden and the jail
And wondered at the strange arrangement.

There, in early spring
In winds awash with storms
No fragrance rose from the green plants
Vying with the over-riding dearth.

The brown and tangles
Far surpassed the green
But round the plants a trellis framework stood
And made a shelter
That lent hope a shape.

Did they in Victorian years
In summer days, peer out
From the dour jail
And breathe in air.. the marjoram and rue
The rosemary and lavender.

Remorse and wild impossibility,
Stone impasse and the scent of flowers.

Vulgar laughter in the cell and tower
As those despairing of a life of justice
Jibe at fate and make
A joke of dreams.

And yet I wonder
If the garden grew
In such proximity
That their gaze could fall
On something loved and tended
Though so small

And if they knew
a rustling or a savour

Of the One who tends the medicine
For the Fall.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Historian's Tale, 5041 AD

They say there was a type of human

Aeons of the ancient world ago

Whom they called Woman.

Who remembers why,

But it is rumoured,

It was something like a goddess

And connected, if it can be properly believed

With the bringing forth of life itself.

You ask me who believes such folly

Or how could such a strange thing be

But there are stranger things

Than we can see

Through science or philosophy.

There was a word used to describe this human;


And in her body,

Do not be alarmed,

There was a living place

Where human life could form.

No, no, She wasn’t a machine.

The strange thing was,

This life was personal.

SHE was not a vessel,

But most intimately made,

To be so sensitive,

That something called relationship

Was possible for her.

Yes, even with the tiniest things.

They say, in legend, even with

The Unseen things.

I speak a heresy, I know

All things detectable by our machines

Are all there is

And these we take

And forge them to our purposes

I know our creed.

And yet

I cannot help but wonder at the fact

‘She’ was not forged by us.

No, no, I can assure you

‘She’ was not conceived by man.

You are astounded

Yet, if tales be true

The strangeness pushes further on.

Beyond the coming of the perfect androgyne

And the Many Gendered, now Ungendered race,

There was a time when humans had

A chance

To look at Otherness in a human face

And all was not constructed in an image

We’d defined.

There was a moment when our thoughts went upwards

Outwards, inwards,

Who can say to where

But how I long to find..

I am a shape that’s built for no one.

I can only dream

That somewhere in the ancient past

There was a place where we, as humans

Knew there was a


In between.

What that’s

My children?

Ah indeed those old forbidden words.

Do not erase the words I speak

For when they take me, old historian

No one will know the secret

That was left behind

But you.

Sarah de Nordwall 22nd March 2014

Thursday, 6 February 2014

On Standing and Opening the Ear

Something may need welcoming into the world
But it has a quiet voice

And only you are listening

Maybe only you can hear that language
And not mistake it for the song of birds

You raise your head
Like a deer who hears the panther,
But not through fear of danger,
Out of love.

The wild thing cometh
And the world is wide

Integrity inspires in all its own response

And so, your sudden leap to the unknown lakeside
Within the glade beside the hidden wood
Cannot be quite explained by clear directions
But sprang from the panther’s heart beat
As You stood.