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Poem & Pic of the Month: August 2015

Every month, I post one of my poems (paired with one of my pictures), sharing its origin and some of its essence. Here is my Poem & Pic of the Month for August 2015:

The River of Woljeongsa Temple

by Patrick Bishop

The tall green pines stand like a great gentle wall

They whisper of another way beyond their prickly branches

Rushing waters call to me, as do the birds;

a happy welcoming greeting

The crickets call. The squirrels call. The blackbirds call.

Even a bumble bee floats nearby, curiously testing my resolve

to accept all the untamed wildness

Flowers dressed in yellows, whites, purples, reds, and orange

burst forth from deep greens of the mountainside

Encouraged by the abundance and delight of their embrace

I breathe them in. I hear only them. I see only them. I feel only them.

This moment is filled with the sweet taste

of their innocense, being, presence, wakefulness

Answering their call, I walk among them

Knowing as I do, my "yes" has made us one

Nature here knows my name

The river herself invites me to sit on her bank, and so I do

Framed by large boulders, she tells me

Time is the knife she used to carve this rock

The water glides down the mountain, like liquid pixies

dancing, laughing, playing, twirling around the bends

Lapping along long logs and popping over buried stones

In a dynamically consistent motion

Their giggles heard in gushes and waves, tumbling over each other

Some take time to rest in side pools, slowly finding their way back

seemlessly reconnecting with watery brothers and sisters

The river invites my hand

Open palm, I allow fingers to fall and feel her cool embrace

Back and forth, she massages each finger,

closer and gentler than any lover, more intimate than I can know

I take what she offers, bringing her to my lips, face and hair

Soothing and cooling, I go back again and again

Until my skin and hair have soaked her in, becoming part of me

We sit together in silence and the moment flickers,

She whispers a goodbye

Tears well up, knowing for that twinkling, we were one

Wiping my eyes, I release them back into her flow

Where they merge and carry on

To places known to me only in the shared essesence of what is


This is one of the longest poems I've ever written; like the river, it just kept flowing. It's from a collection of time spent at Woljeongsa Temple in South Korea. It was a weekend stay during my month-long teaching at Dankook University. The Buddhist retreat center was set into the mountains located on the eastern slopes of Odaesan in Pyeongchang County, Gangwon Province, South Korea. As I sat in contemplation, this poem wrote itself over the course of a few sittings, both there and in reflection elsewhere. The scene of the river is one of my favorite memories of the entire weekend. For several minutes, I sat alone on an outcropping of the river during a break from a hike with a Monk and many Dankook students. It was a time of deep peace and beauty that literally moved me to tears.

The Picture

This is the actual point where the river invited me to sit and be with her.

© 2015 by Patrick Bishop; all rights reserved.

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