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108 I’m not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling, even more when Buddha’s watching. Where the stone steps narrow, slick and worn, a rope hangs to pull yourself up to the top of Mount Hamwol. There he sits, waiting out the centuries, counting hands and feet to mark the passing time. I wonder if my birth mother climbed this mountain, listened to the monks chanting breakfast, showered in the morning rain, or felt this shame like a tightness in the calves, the pain of a climb to heights not meant for us. Did she make her way to the top after praying her good-byes, then hear the devotion of bells and feel hollow? Did she cling to the rocks, unable to look up or down? I’ll pretend she took the same bus to get here, the 100 to Andong crowded with students, arms aching from holding a bar too high. She’d have worn the wrong shoes, toes blistered between the bus stop and the base of the mountain. Near the top, lungs in flame, she’d have sat here, Golgulsa jenny yang cropp —“Stone Buddha Temple,” Republic of Korea 109 in this alcove carved from stone, hidden from Buddha’s gaze. If I slip, he might laugh, grateful for a break in the routine. Instead of a bow, I could give him crushed bone. Instead of a chant, he’d have my unconscious body. This is all I’ve brought for an offering, the fruit and flower of my fear, eternity of downward motion, intimacy with gravity—mass acting on mass, forever, without collision. I grip the rope knowing we’ll never compare notes, teeter on a wet rock ledge and freeze where she froze, waiting to climb down, for him to look the other way. ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-2651
Print ISSN
1553-1775
Pages
pp. 108-109
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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