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


  1. I love the concept of "soul tools" and I ABSOLUTELY love that last stanza! "We find the energy we need is not the electric kind. In every cafe where the soul sings free, the laptop is left behind."

    It's true that there's something non-earthy about pixels. There's just something about a new notebook that brings the soul delight that opening a new Word document just can't replicate.

  2. Ah ha! Paper made from sails and ropes. But don't knock 'pixels', I got a lot of points in scrabble yesterday for that word.

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