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  • Brian C. Billings

From North Korea: The Phantom Fisherman

Published on the Ancient Paths Facebook page on March 2, 2019.

Who will take the box With my ashes? Dry and white, It is last of eight.

The Buddhist laying Sutras upon the sweet air Speaks like our old ships,

Creaking with an age That promises safe passage. We sailed to catch squid,

I with gochujang, My mates with strong cigarettes, All with garlic bulbs.

We left the testing, The nuclear excitement. Silent, we escaped.

Those before us said We might find modern treasure— Washers, fridges, screens—

On Akita’s banks In Japanese fishing shacks. We wanted only squid.

Chairman Kim declared Our catch should be made double, And so it would be . . .

If not for the cold And the rough, ripping weather That tied us to nets

Where we drowned at last And drifted along Oga To reach Sunday sand.

They stripped us of nails On fingers and toes and burned All else for honor.

Our dreams have settled Into an ordered pattern On a table in

Tousenji. We sit And parallel the village That died with us.

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