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