Dharma by Sophie McKeand

Dharma by Sophie McKeand | A.i.R

This piece by Sophie McKeand features her poem, Dharma and is part of the new Wales Arts Review ‘Artists in Residence’ line-up series. Throughout 2017 these artists, including McKeand will take a leading creative role in what Wales Arts Review publishes, centring their skills on a challenging project over the course of a month. We were inundated with applications, receiving hundreds of emails about the positions, and it was no easy task whittling down all that talent to this final eleven. Our team of six editors debated long into the night, and in the end, we decided on a collection of people who we most want to work with, and whose work excites us. We think you will be excited by them too.

Sophie McKeand is a writer of water and earth, of migration and roots. These threads of poetry are woven throughout McKeand’s life in celebration of the kaleidoscopic forces that make up the unnameable essence of being.

Artist in Residence, Sophie McKeand, writes her final poem for her residency, Dharma. The lines were written on the overnight train from Varanasi to Kolkata.

Dharma by Sophie McKeand
Dharma by Sophie McKeand

by Sophie McKeand

The Prophets of the past have nothing left to teach you,

no time has ever existed like this that they could have foreseen.

The Great Wheel is turning and you will change with it

Or you will not.


We move forward by reaching down into earth to embrace the darkness in each other.

The last great poem has already been written and will continue to write itself

until you accept you are the author and the only way of concluding is to search

deep inside yourself for the beginning.

You hold the answers to everything.

You are the universe in flesh and water.

there is nothing you don’t already know.

Learn to hear your truth.

Understand what it is you are given.

Your mind speaks to you.


This is not such a simple task when the method of telling is one so old we have forgotten –

rediscover yourself slowly, over decades, like reincarnated lovers.


Create in order to transform your life, not to satisfy the intellectual curiosity of yourself,

or others.


This path begins with horror at the strange – the not-known

but the familiar eventually terrifies so that you fear not only yourself, but them:

know that your community are not your enemy.

Know that your enemy is not your enemy.

A forest can only cause you to walk miles in the wrong direction if

you didn’t bother to map her soul.

You are afraid and lazy and as such will work diligently – long hours into the night – to avoid facing the unease, the awkwardness, the sense of utter failure.

Do not shy from this truth – the world will continue to make life difficult until you stop

choosing the easy path every time.


Your inner landscape houses the ghosts you feed by pretending they are not real,

these are the dead spirits of all the promises you made and didn’t keep.

Know that your heart beat stronger upon making them

and crumbled upon realising the lie.


You have shored the broken pottery of your heart against the ocean of time and we are riding a great wave into the unknown.

Accept that everything is known until this point – all of time exists as one – but we are reaching

A Great Ending or Great Beginning and you cannot change anything except yourself.

If you are the one thing you think is right with the world

then you are the problem.


Do not believe what I say.

You know your truth, it tracks you like a pack of hungry wolves across the frozen tundra of your emotional life and once they have devoured you

the crows will pick over the carcass of your ignorance.

You will be scattered in animal shit across the face of the earth –

perhaps then you will understand how much you have been loved.


Until this time seek truths –

Know that every answer you hunt is an animal stealth-stepping through the

landscape of your mind.

It is for you to seek out and understand the way of the hunter

the way of crow and kite

the last blue whale.

You do this by connecting with the external – when did you last swim in the ocean?

Or wake at dawn to praise the sun?

When did you last unravel the knots in your intestines by feeding only on

the emotions your stomach needs?

Do you know what you need?


Try this:

Live as closely to nature as possible.



Everything else is superfluous.

Everything else is part of the lie that keeps us enslaved like battery hens when

the door is open.


Your body knows what you need and

you can either lift your face up to the heavens and give thanks to the soft rain that praises your skin

or you can hide in brick houses, behind solid doors that ostracise the sun and moon and feed the whispers in your lungs telling you the problem is with other people.

Do not lose yourself in dreams of shaping cities in your own image,

stay away from anything that reassures you the world needs your meddling.


Your alien heart will still beat and deep within you the mountain echoes

If you cannot hear this then you must stop everything immediately until you can.

Or continue as normal but keep trying, until you can.

It is all the same.

The Great Wheel is turning and you will change with it

Or you will not.


This piece by Sophie McKeand featuring her poem, Dharma is part of the new Artists in Residence series.


Cover Image – The Ganges at Dawn by Sophie McKeand