TO COME CURIOUS

 

We take slow steps into the sweet water, watch the current
caress the dark rock, the volcanic roar no longer rupturing,
its rage now rocked to slumber by this single shore. I lose
my shirt to time’s tide and this shimmering sand, I lift it up
and feel the weight that washed over it as you turn to face
the vast ocean and wonder what the next wave will bring
upon us. We have crossed currents, trained through towns
and cut across mountains, we have laughed at sadness
and cried over cocktails, we have come so far to wade out
into these waters as locals watch us with questions of how
and why. We have come curious to this country, we creep
along its coast like this tide, rummaging over these rocks,
wondering what happened to the heat it once ran with
when man was more forgiving and the mountain more daunting.
We climb the dormant mount, once maker of molten menace,
to watch the sun swim up from the sea and we count minutes
till the darkness will be disregarded as if time is all that’s needed
to destroy depression, decay, dysphoria. This mountain, once
a monster the sea could not settle and land could not control,
this country, once more than a division of north and south,
of emperors and conquers, confucians and catholics, devout
and deserted. We were once more than single souls searching
for the way back. We are tides, coming and going along
these beds we find shelter in, arms wrapped around us
like seaweed we equally fight off and hold down, we are lava,
trailing tunnels through our own thoughts, destroying
what we think to be too much but never quite knowing
how to fill the hollowness that’s left behind. We take steps
down into the open earth, adding sweaters to our short sleeves
and I wonder why it grows colder the closer we get to the core.
Isn’t the inferno on fire any more? Dante will be disappointed.
We look like ants crawling over cobbled rock as we curve
through these corridors created in centuries now cemented
into time and caress these walls and catch our breath
under cathedral ceilings created by no creature but by nature’s
creation. Deeper and deeper still and the silliness is replaced
by a silence, a stillness in this place where the waters drip
from porous rock and we look smaller, less special, not so strong
in this cave carved by once molten rock, lines of luscious lava
that laughed as its lungs opened and it’s power poured. Later,
back at the beach, the tide again tickles our feet as we stand
upon the rock that once before roared. We are equal parts
creator and equal parts responsible for all that we corrupt.
We have come curious to this country but find ourselves
asking more questions about ourselves than of this coast
that will still be counted long after we have been smashed
upon our own current. We take slower steps through
the sweetness and my heart beats louder, longer, lighter.

IMG_2956.jpg

At the end of our holiday in South Korea we crossed over onto the Island of Jeju, UNESCO world heritage site and walked down into the Manjanggul lava tubes, underground caves dug out by lava while Trump and Kim had their summit. We waded out into blue waters lined with the remains of volcanic rock as the locals wondered how we’d gotten there and then climbed Seongsan (now dormant) volcano to watch the sun rise at 4.30am. The sun rose at 5.22am although the clouds arrived at 5.10am. This is why I offer a picture I took of the sunset the night before. You can’t have a sunset like this and still expect more, even if you hiked in the darkness.

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

Audio version available on Soundcloud:

 

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