A heart

by Fiona Hamilton

A  heart

Was a shape
I drew and re-drew
two swan’s necks
curving towards each other
graceful reflections
bearing names
and words of love

A heart

I discovered
was not heart-shaped
but asymmetrical
bulbous, dark red
its chambers and tubes
funnelling life, messy
and indispensible

My heart

is full of surprises:
how does it fold in, fracture, re-form?
how, after a time of pain
did it become a space?
a window of light?
a round opening
letting warm air pass through?
a slow release of joy?


'Heart' begins with remembered experience of drawing hearts as a schoolgirl in love - little doodles of desire shared with friends, or kept to myself.

Seeing the heart as an essential, messier physical object was part of growing up (work in progress) and finding there is a curious, perhaps comic, difference between romantic and material hearts. The gap intrigues me.

The third stanza describes a real experience which sounds like a metaphor. Following surgery which brought my heart closer to the surface of my body, I had a strange sense of warm air passing through that 'window'. I prefer to allow the experience to retain its mystery and gradually release its meanings, but when prompted to write about the heart, I chose, tentatively, to put some of it into words for others to read. Illness prompted me to write and share. At some point, I understood that 'speaking from the heart' was important. Keeping quiet had previously seemed the more pragmatic option.

I discovered first-hand something of how the body's sensations and effects take place on a physical level and also on emotional and spiritual ones. Rather than being distinct from our ideas or beliefs 'about' experience, and rather than being separate from our complex environments, our bodies are intimately involved.

Poetry is my way of attempting to convey and clarify these layers of experience using materials that are malleable, ordinary yet extraordinary, and delicious: words. Poetry tries to honour experience, move the reader, move the writer. It also knows that there are likely to be questions remaining at the end of a poem - at least as many as definitive answers.

That is why humans' unfolding journeys with health, illness and healing have, in many cultures, looked to poets as well as physicians to grapple with what is really going on and what to do about it. I like to work with people to encourage their creativity in words, stories, writing, and in sensory and visual art materials as well, which complement words. I am privileged to see how, inside each person's unique creative perspective, which relates closely to their inner life, are wonderful and surprising possibilities for change and reconnection.


Fiona studied literature and drama and writes poems, song lyrics, fiction and non-fiction. Her poetry includes the collection Skinandi (Two Turtles Press, 2006) which explores how we tell our stories with inherited and chosen materials

Fiona has been the poet in residence at Brooklea GP surgery over the past four years.



10 October 2017 - 07:24:58
"This poem is truly moving, the way in which the author shows how she grows is captivating. More so as she continues to show her child-like awe for the heart despite her maturing through the poem."


29 October 2017 - 23:30:22
"I adore the way the author has intertwined the physical anatomy of the heart - from her simplistic childlike drawings to then her deeper understanding of it's true shape - with the more creative associations people have with the heart as a source of emotion and feeling. It almost echoes those relations between science and art that run through the fundamental aspects of medicine. "

Avani Shanbhag

06 November 2018 - 09:16:36
"I think that in a way, this poem refers to the different types of health that can affect a patient. These would be physical, mental and social health. It considers everything that would need to be discussed in a doctor patient consultation as there are various things in their life that could be affecting their health. The poem also highlights the curiosity of patients to understand more about themselves in terms of conditions that they may be diagnosed with. I feel that many patients prefer to be more involved in making decisions about their own healthcare. This shows that doctors should refrain from using a paternalistic approach in their consultations and have a more shared perspective by including the patient's views about their treatment in order to make a decision. "


06 November 2018 - 09:25:17
"I love the contrast between the simplistic view of the heart and the more complicated anatomical view. The difference between these two ideas are somehow complimentary, and reflect the parallel relationship of art and medicine."

Avikalp Kishore

05 November 2019 - 07:13:47
"I like how the poet talks about her understanding of the heart's anatomy as she progresses through levels of learning. Beginning with the standard conventional health symbol, she moves on to show the anatomical structure and how it appals her in the beginning. She seems to be surprised, pleasantly, by the functioning of the heart and how it gives life. During this, she shows the coming together of art and science."


05 November 2019 - 07:14:23
"This poem coveys a simple yet effective message that the writer has experienced an increased understanding of what the heart is. It started in the writer’s life with childlike drawings of symmetrical hearts but now the writer has looked at real hearts; the view goes from a happy idea of love toward the more functional serious role of the heart. In a way this conveys how the writer has grown up during their medical education. The structure of the poem is almost that of a sandwich, with the two outer paragraphs bordering to the actual hard facts regarding the heart, reflecting in reality, how the heart is almost sandwiched in the ribcage. To conclude, I feel the final paragraph is a personal touch to how the writer feels with their heart. Of course, feelings occur with the brain, but the way humans report love and emotional pain being a physical feeling is conveyed by the question marks. So, is the heart a mechanical mass with only functional use or is the space in our chest where our emotions can seep out from the torrent of thoughts we experience throughout life? "