High on a hilltop you rise above your age
and you offer your wisdom of the ancients
(hush, I say, to hear the humble) to ears new
to these old whispers that are now as woven
to the earth as the tress rooted below it, as you
are driven now to plod along this mountain path,
a former teacher and now caretaker of the history
time might have let slide but your mind will not
let fade while I wonder where I was a year ago,
a month ago, a day ago? High on a hilltop
we lean in and listen as you describe what we
have recently found indecipherable. And again
we follow footsteps imprinted into the soil.
We take the right side and bow, thrice, as memory
recalls the emperor taking the central path
while the guards, armed with their faith in the form
of the dragon, harmony in the form of their music
and strength in the size of their sword, ward off
the demons and welcome in the inner light.
There is light here, gentle light, a subtle light
to caress the skin, to sink within as we mount
and meditate on how we got here, to this hill,
to this land, to this life, to this breath. High
on the hilltop we take in the scent of incense
as the chimes ring out to remind us we are not
one, alone, but one single part of the whole
and we bow again thrice and follow the flow
of the stream that knows more about its route
than we ever be able to know about our own.



All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Photographs from Beomeosa Temple, Busan, South Korea and special thanks to this wonderful man who was on the bus with us and then gave us a private tour

Audio version available on Soundcloud:




4 thoughts on “THE CARETAKER

  1. Dami! I love your poem. I’m so glad you posted your travel photos and described your experiences before posting the poems – it helps one appreciate the poems so much more. Now, down to business (tongue-in-cheek)… I was blown away that you mentioned a dragon. I have just, a few seconds ago, received permission to re-post a photo from another beloved blogging friend. Its of a weir but you can ‘see’ a ‘Snow Dragon’ in the water. I’ll be posting it in a few days and inviting any followers who wish to, to draw a picture and/or create a poem about the ‘Snow Dragon’. Just sayin’ in case you might be interested in participating, if it happens to spark off something in your remarkably creative spirit my friend!

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