by Lucille Lang Day
On a clear day from the top of Mt. Seorak,
which juts more than a mile into the sky,
you can see all the way to North Korea,
but Google won’t tell you exactly,
or even roughly, how far that is.
Sorry, your search appears to be
outside our current coverage area.
A polite way of saying, You can’t get
there from here. Our guide says
it’s 40 kilometers, about 25 miles.
Korea is seventy percent mountains
with forests of oak and red pine.
Intricately carved and painted,
Sinheungsa at the base of Mt. Seorak
is the oldest Zen temple in the world.
Nearby sits the Great Unification Buddha,
48-feet high, representing the people’s
wish for reunification of Korea,
but the guide will lose his job if he speaks
of this. No politics, his employer
has warned. It might upset the tourists.
So he turns to religion. Half of Koreans
are atheists, one-quarter Christians.
Inside the hollow statue are three pieces
of Buddha’s sari. Monks chant and pray.
Second Prize, Poetry Contest of the Women’s National Book Association-San Francisco, 2020.
PHOTO: Dinosaur Ridge of Mt. Seorak (South Korea). Photo by Taewangkorea, used by permission.
NOTE: Seoraksan (Mt. Seorak) is the highest mountain in the Taebaek mountain range in the Gangwon Province in eastern South Korea. Located in a national park near the city of Sokcho, it is the third highest mountain in South Korea. The Daechongbong Peak of Seoraksan reaches 5,603 feet. For its appearance, the mountain is sometimes referred to as the backbone of South Korea.
PHOTO: Bronze Buddha of Sinheungsa (Buddhist Temple) near the main entrance to Seoraksan National Park, South Korea. Photo by Nagyman, used by permission.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In May 2019, I visited Japan and South Korea. I was impressed by the beauty of these countries and by the fact that both are about 70% mountains and forests. Climbing Mt. Seorak was one of the highlights of my visit to South Korea.
PHOTO: The author on Mt. Seorak, South Korea (May 2019).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lucille Lang Day is the author of seven full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks. Her most recent collection is Birds of San Pancho and Other Poems of Place (Blue Light Press, November 2020). She has also coedited two anthologies, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California and Red Indian Road West: Native American Poetry from California, and has published two children’s books and a memoir, Married at Fourteen: A True Story. Her many honors include the Blue Light Poetry Prize, two PEN Oakland/ Josephine Miles Literary Awards, the Joseph Henry Jackson Award, and 10 Pushcart Prize nominations. She is the founder and publisher of Scarlet Tanager Books. Visit her at lucillelangday.com.
Author photo by Hilary Brodey