A Poem: South Korean Ferry Accident


276 Dead (232 Students)

28 Missing (Underwater)

1 Rescued Found Dead (Suicide)

Search operation is still ongoing.

Footage is released to the public: the captain
abandoning the ferry in his underwear. Barefoot, he jumps

into another man’s arms. On screen, his face is purple.
He knew the ferry was 300 times over capacity, they say.

He knew the lifeboats were broken, the cargo was tipping.
After the footage, the ferry owner’s son disappears.

The captain is charged with murder. A senior official
of the inspection company SeaTrust is arrested.

I once took the same ferry route between Incheon
and Jeju Island. The decks were green.

The students heard over the speakers: “Do not move
from your present location and stay where you are.”

My parents are crying in the other room. “Why didn’t
the students jump into the water?

Americans would’ve jumped.” My mom is saddest
about the moment of drowning.

They’re 15-year-olds. At that age, I believed in God.
Who says love that is painful is not love?

For the first time, my mom says to me, “Korea was wrong.
My country did wrong.”

The mother of a deceased boy dove into the ocean.
The officers fetched her out, and she appeared on television,

saying, “My son is in that dark and cold water.”
A volunteer committed suicide. The prime minister stepped down.

The South Korean TV stations ban music, variety shows, and games
for 3 weeks. My mom wakes me

in the middle of the night. “If you are on a sinking ship,” she says,
“Don’t trust anybody. Don’t listen to anybody.”

During a memorial service, a pastor who witnessed the cleaning
and shrouding of the bodies said, “How much the students must have

scraped at the walls while trapped in the ferry that their fingernails
have all fallen off.” The chapel broke out in tears.

Another footage from inside the ship is uploaded on YouTube
under the request of parents of the deceased student.

The footage is broadcast. The faces are blurred.
The voices are changed. They are laughing

for a brief second of nervous excitement. “Do you think
we’ll become famous?” someone says, “Like the Titanic?”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vUYcp8Dsvw&w=560&h=315]