Zing Stories

I, a Passing Stranger

A poem from Mountains Belong to the People who Love Them, (2011) the first part of which is about South Korea.

I, a Passing Stranger

The rice farmer's child
asks something in a high voice.
His mother pauses in her work.
Lesley Sem, she tells him.
Then she from her cottage of stone and mud,
and I from the path to school,
raise our arms
and wave to each other

Sem: Teacher

And from the second part, about Eastern Australia ...


 I’m here because of leaves. Above, below. Emerging, living, dying. They breathe out and I breathe in – I grow heady with their oxygen. Even here, at the edge of the rainforest, their colours and shapes defy belief. Their decay releases a pungent earthiness, and tomorrow when I start the Great Walk, their litter will cushion my feet.

To come to them I have turned away from things. Life in automatic gear – familiar, habitual, comforting, yet strangely stultifying. What the Buddha, teaching in Ancient India, defined as samsara.

 Samsara’s speed seems to be picking up. Life’s all fast lanes, fast connections, fast food, speed dating and fast bucks.

So here I am at Green Mountains, an hour’s worth of fast driving south from the city of Brisbane. After fleeing along the freeway, my car has nosed west and climbed the narrow road. This is the plan: rendezvous at Green Mountains, slow down, trust the unfolding of the journey.

 here i am, leaves

in my simplicity

as you are ...

These were the opening lines of my presentation to the Queensland Poetry Festival, 2011, while a film by Alun Hogget, with music by Lila Meleisia, screened. (Now on You Tube.) It’s condensed from a longer essay, ‘Slow Days on Old Pathways’, in Mountains Belong to the People who Love Them: Slow Journeys in South Korea and Eastern Australia.


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