Joey S. Kim
The dawn dims
into particulate gray
and the fisherman awakens to new air.
A midday monsoon
stalls the kimchi seller’s sales,
biding time for a backroom nap.
The last sale of the day, “Give me one pound of cod,” goes
home with the Tokyo missionary.
Sunset recommends the walk home from the market,
pouch full of yen—
Stomachs churning, dreaming
of white rice at dinner.
Kerosene bed lamp blown out,
the fisherman’s wife yawns,
submitting to the gloaming.
Most days, I can’t find you.
I dream about you,
down in the rice paddy.
running past the still water,
the crunch of dried up grass tickling your dirt toes,
as you flail your arms in the dewy air
and your open shirt whirls behind you;
or walking to school in your
stiff uniform the color between gray and brown,
the one you wear in the torn family picture,
your eyes not shielded behind glasses yet,
your body lean and tan.
Your body is hunched now,
a sliver of its schooldays.
You sit in front of the plasma
TV you worked so hard to afford,
chewing your sugar-free gum as you nurse
a can of Bud Light,
your eyes downturned, perhaps thinking of the family bbong tree and its silkworm
If I’m lucky, I find you in stolen moments
of the day, like when I sneak into the basement
to read your poems from college,
and as I turn the pages,
they seem to shrivel up between
my fingers, disintegrating—
tender words turned
gossamer threads that I can
now see through.
Still, most days I can’t find you.
Joey S. Kim is a postdoctoral fellow at Boston University’s Kilachand Honors College. She writes about nineteenth-century British literature with a focus on Romantic poetry, postcolonial theory, and new formalism. In addition, she is a poet and spoken word artist who has performed and published work in Burningwood Literary Journal, The Journal, Korean American Story, and other venues. She teaches English literature and writing courses with themes such as Global Romanticism, Cosmopolitan Citizenship, World Literatures, and Nineteenth-Century Poetics.
Wm. Anthony Conolly
Lovely how you capture a day through a series of related views of the commerce of the fishing trade.
Joey S Kim
Thanks so much for your kind words! This poem is from a longer chapbook on Korean identity I’m working on.