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Jhilmil Breckenridge writes about loss for Magma 75

Reflections at a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Dharamshala, India 

by Jhilmil Breckenridge

A man sweeps the middle of a courtyard
The monastery is a pregnant woman, swelling with seekers—
That old woman, her fingers moving a worn rosary 
The soft hill of her back rising, falling with every breath,
Smiling a toothless smile, sharing sweets with a friend 

A young Buddhist monk walks a corridor dotted with yellow doors
Robes a river of wine, his face is moonlight
The low chanting of Tibetan monks is warm oil on a dry body

And everywhere, they sit with rosaries
That one—grief, a heavy sack of grain on his chest
That one—suckling an infant, her body moving to the chants
And of course, that one—the ageing, white spiritual aspirant, 
her wrists ringed with amethyst and silver

In the monastery, we are all equalised—
the man with the broken spirit on the corner
mingles with the blithe toddler skipping on the steps 
Karma is always the young boy putting on his red
canvas sneakers to play hide and seek

The sweeping ends, the chanting stops
Everyday sounds fill the monastery—
the ring of a cellphone, the laughter of friends

All around us, in the dead leaves being swept up, 
in the people spinning the prayer wheel, 
in the young girl eating a biscuit, 
in the rush of people leaving to start their days, 
loss is a door opening to fresh possibilities

More information

This poem was originally published in Magma 75: The Loss Issue, edited by Adam Lowe and Yvonne Reddick.

Listen to poets reading their work at the Magma website.

Jhilmil Breckenridge is a poet, writer and activist. She is the founder of Bhor Foundation, an Indian charity, which is active in mental health advocacy. She advocates Poetry as Therapy and is working on a few initiatives, both in the UK and India, taking this into prisons and hospitals. Her debut poetry collection, Reclamation Song, was published in May 2018 by Red River Press, India and in November 2019 by Verve Poetry Press, UK.

Photo by Mohd Danish Hussain.

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