The stone grandfathers are still herding rocks,
though neither shepherds nor flocks
have moved for a thousand years.
The Scholar leads his flock to the shore,
where the wind whips the tide into a frenzy
that crashes into the rocks, oblivious
as they contemplate this interface between
the terrestrial realm from which they were hewn
and the dark, fluid marine kingdom that tempts them.
The Warrior orders his charges into walls
dividing all land, arable and otherwise,
into neat rectangular parcels, protected,
he claims, come tsunami season.
A village woman who spoke my tongue
graced me with a compassionate smile
from a weathered face too lovely to be expected.
She told me this island has three things:
walls, wind and women. The stone grandfathers,
looming as they do across the landscape, apparently
have become part of the island and have been forgotten.
The grandfathers have petrified over the ages.
The black basalt rocks of the Scholar rest untended
on the sickle of beach stretching beneath the pocked cliffs.
The stone walls of the Warrior are beginning to crumble
around the ungated openings.
The village woman tells me the island has three “no things”.
Expecting three abstractions found on the island,
I understand once I hear her list that she speaks instead
of three things absent from the island:
gates, beggars and thieves.
The grandfathers haven’t moved since Mt. Halla erupted,
its top forming Mt. Sanbang, isolated on the coast,
where the Mountain Goddess now weeps in the caves.
Each tear drop is captured and collected in stone pools,
fit only for the faithful.
“Why is she weeping?” you ask, though you shouldn't.
The natives of this island will tell you only
that she was so severely troubled by this world
she turned to stone, but I have a different suspicion.
She cries, I think, because in order to have no gates,
the islanders had to get rid of every beggar and thief.
The Mountain Goddess laments their passing.
This, of course, was a long time ago, when the Stone
Grandfathers still trod the paths of the island.
I might know how to console the Mountain Goddess.
I’m thinking I might lay down here on the side of road,
next to these stones tumbled from the top of the wall,
tuck myself in beneath the mist and begin to beg.
Maybe the return of a single beggar will suffice
to rouse the Stone Grandfathers from their ancient slumber,
and the Scholar will explain what I have long been unable to understand
and the Warrior will teach me that it’s worth fighting for.