High on a hilltop, you climb above your age
and whisper the wisdom of your ancestors like its wealth
(hush, I say, to hear the humble)
worn words as woven into the earth as the roots
of the trembling trees standing to support those above it.
High on a hilltop, a former teacher caresses history
like a caretaker tends the glories growing in a garden he was given,
tales time would have tossed but his time mind still meditates over
while I wonder where I was a year, a month, an hour ago?
High on a hilltop, we lean into the comfort
to accept all that we have found indecipherable.
We take the right side at the entrance, as instructed,
and bow, thrice, and the empty space recalls the place of the emperor
who once took the central path while the guards, armed
with faith in the form of a dragon, harmony in the form of their music
and strength in the size of their sword, wards off the demons
and welcomes in the inner light.
There is light here, a 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 breathe in the simplicity of common incense
and sway 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 stream that knows more
about its route than we will ever to understand about our own.
All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly. This is a reworking of an older poem for a week recalling travels in South Korea in 2018.