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From North Korea: The Phantom Fisherman

October 30, 2019


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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