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Heart Unit


Mum sleeps in the ward

while Dad sits in a corner

hands clasped


She speaks for minutes

without making sense

but I hear love


Down the phone

my sister’s screaming children

drown out her voice



The Last Parlour


They could have bothered

with that half-dropped lip

like a baffled smile.

I guess it’s been hot.


You look lost

in your jacket and tank top,

pressed grey slacks

like a child dressed up


in adult clothes.

Your skin is smooth

and rouged, not

the brown it was


when you were first dead.

This is not you, Dad.

It’s not even flesh.

It’s some canvas, finished with,


left in a box,

a creation of Pygmalion’s

he got bored with.

I put a rose between your hands,


your Bible on your chest.

Whatever tensed the strings, lit the eyes,

exhaled a voice has gone

and this is like


a bad reproduction,

a skewed sketch, all wrong.

The vase of white lilies

on the sill


has more of you than this show.

And the summer light through the window.



Old Lady in a Cemetery


She rises in the shade

of fan palms

in a bed of busy lizzies

by the stone-arched gates,


arms lifted at her sides

like a pelican unfolding on a rock.

Her mouth rolls and twitches:

a yawn, an airing of the jaws,


a clapping of the mandibles

as she sniffs the morning air.

She creaks half upright, squats again,

head turning, mouth agape,


as if she’s landed by mistake.

Faded cherry cardigan (once 

a mother knitted that), a lime green dress

that hugs her knees, hair


a spill of curls beneath

a battered pink straw hat. She takes in

the walls, the gates,

the drive in front of her that leads


one way to the mausoleums,

the other to the road outside. Her eyes

are wild –

a little girl’s, a child’s.



Dharmavadana is poetry editor of the Buddhist arts magazine Urthona ( His own poetry has appeared in the magazines Magma, Smith’s Knoll, Presence and in the anthology The Heart as Origami: Contemporary Buddhist Poets (Rising Fire Press 2005), as well as previously in Buddhist Poetry Review (issue # 3). He lives in London.