14946075 - angkor wat at sunset
Angkor Wat
by Tina Hacker

Tourists see
a spiritual wonder,
marvel of architecture,
international treasure.

I see stairs.

A decay of branches
and logs that carried ancient
pilgrims closer to heaven
separate the present-day steps.

One flight up
one down.

Two sheer cliffs
of steep, wobbly planks.
The lower stairs, orphaned
of railings, the upper,
corded with them.

Lifelines of difficult labors.

Tourists lean
on partners and walking sticks,
mine their cache
of muscle memory
to balance as they inch
from the lower stairs
to those with the handrail.

They grasp it
as if it were the arm of God.

Previously published in the Red Eft Review, 2016

PHOTO: “Angkor Wat at sunset” by Sergey Belov, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Angkor Wat is an enormous Buddhist temple complex located in northern Cambodia. Built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple, the complex extends across more than 400 acres, The largest religious monument in the world, its name translates to “temple city” in the Khmer language of the region.  (Source: history.com)

angkor-wat-temple licensed

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For those who may imagine the deity as an elderly, white-haired gentlemen—I say, “You’re right!” At least that’s how I felt when a fellow tourist offered me his arm as I was creeping down the steeper than steep stairs at Angkor Wat, the temple complex in Cambodia.

PHOTO: “Tourists climbing stairs at Angkor Wat” by Sharon Ang, used by permission.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tina Hacker, a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, was a finalist in New Letters and George F. Wedge competitions. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, both online and in print, including the Whirlybird Anthology of Kansas City Writers, San Pedro River Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, I-70 Review, The Fib Review, and Quantum Fairy Tales.  She has a full-length poetry book, Listening to Night Whistles, and a chapbook, Cutting It.  Since 1976, she has edited poetry for Veterans’ Voices, a national magazine of writing by military veterans.

PHOTO: The author in Cambodia with Angkor Wat in the distance.