There is one side of Wutong Mountain in China
that shoots up straight, veils of emerald foliage
dripping down erect pillars of craggy rock.
There is no gentle sloping there to ease the journey of passengers,
no tranquil wind or paved paths. To climb, there is only a bar for the hands
and a thin trail barely visible beyond shrouded fog, precarious enough
so that a misplaced step sends one tumbling over the edge.
When young I knew intimately the rust flaking off that bar,
hands stained orange, my body slender enough to press itself
close against Wutong’s body, against the forbidding rock.
I could never discern how the precipices felt about me – this trembling girl
born from the same dynastic roots and common history, trying
to house within myself the temptation of the beckoning depths,
the fear that I would reject myself from the mountain, push back and fall.
You, Wutong seemed to whisper,
lifting vines and tipping over gravel shards.
You are not welcome. The deathly heights frowned upon me,
you are not one of us. It knew, even then, that years later
its home would no longer be my home, that my skin and native tongue
would flip inside out, my roots upended from East to West.
It will wonder why I rejected its being in all but touch,
my feverish skin on the lithic surface clinging like vines
all those lifetimes ago.
Cindy Ren is a senior in Highland Park High School of Dallas, Texas. She has won a national Scholastic Art & Writing Award for Poetry and is a National Student Poets Program Semifinalist.